Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Magical, Pensively Conversational Improvisations From Josh Sinton’s Latest Project

The trio What Happens in a Year is a serendipitous meeting of minds, three guys who are great listeners and conversationalists. Formidable and incredibly mutable low-register multi-reedman Josh Sinton first brought guitarist Todd Neufeld and bassist Giacomo Merega into a rehearsal room to whip up some ideas he could flesh out for an album. Their rapport turned out to be so strong that Sinton decided simply to go with the trio’s spontaneous interactions as his first-ever full-length, completely improvised album, Cérémonie/Musique, streaming at Bandcamp.

As you would expect from Merega and Neufeld, the music here tends to be on the quiet side. As you would expect from Sinton, especially, it’s entertaining, not merely a pattern book to inspire other free jazz dudes. In the album’s opening number, La Politique des Auteurs, Sinton plays spare, rather wistful baritone sax phrases, Merega responding with one of his signature devices, spacious chords. Neufeld enters the picture with skeletal motives and lingering, distant menace. A bustle develops beneath Sinton’s airy lines; Merega’s bubbles evince jarring slashes from the guitar.

Sepulchral ambience punctuated by the occasional cry is the central premise of Algernon, a magically austere soundscape. Change of Scene is much the same: lingering bass clarinet from Sinton, spare volume-knob swells and brooding figures from Neufeld and shadowy low end from Merega…all of which hardly telegraph the sotto-voce revelry to come.

The dissociative low-register prowl from Sinton – back on baritone sax – and Merega in Sleepwalk Digest is spot-on, Neufeld adding unexpectedly wary, skronky accents and menacingly steady, slow chordal cascades. The guitarist’s morosely tolling lines take centerstage over his bandmates’ floating, flitting, ghostly presence in Untethered.

The group follow the same pattern, but even more spaciously and skeletally, in Netherland, at first the most haunting yet ultimately the funniest piece here. They close the album with Music From a Locked Room, an extended, triangulated pitch-and-follow scenario. What a beautifully enveloping headphone album: you’ll undoubtedly see this on a lot of best-of lists at the end of the year.

November 6, 2020 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Champian Fulton Reinvents Charlie Parker with Her Usual Purist Style and Sense of Humor

Champian Fulton made a mark as a purist, Dinah Washington-influenced singer while still in her teens, but in the years since she’s developed piano chops to match that erudite sensibility. There is no other artist in jazz with as much mastery of both the mic and the 88s. Until the lockdown, she maintained a punishing tour schedule, continuing to release albums at a steady clip. Her latest one, Birdsong – a celebration of the Charlie Parker centennial, streaming at Bandcamp – is a logical step in the career of an artist who approaches jazz as entertainment and never stops pushing herself. It’s a mix of vocal and instrumental numbers, more of them associated with Bird than actual Parker compositions.

As usual, Fulton takes a painterly approach, parsing the lyrics line by line. The take of Just Friends, shifting subtly from a jazz waltz to balmy swing, is a good choice of opener. As silky and expressive as her vocals are, her jaunty Errol Garner-ish piano solo is even more adrenalizing.

Fulton chooses her accomplices well. With his smoky tone and uncluttered melodicism, tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton is a perfect fit, and Fulton’s longtime rhythm section of bassist Hide Tanaka and drummer Fukushi Tainaka (no relation) provide an aptly spring-loaded, low-key groove.

Her trumpeter dad Stephen Fulton harmonizes and then offers a mix of carbonation and restraint in a tightly bouncing version of Yardbird Suite. Hamilton matches the frontwoman’s balmy vocals in This Is Always; her droll ornamentation at the keys is irresistibly funny.

Star Eyes is a vehicle for Fulton’s command of a familiar Washington trope, going from mist to bite in barely the space of a syllable. The brightly swinging piano trio version of Quasimodo captures the bandleader in a particularly determined mood and gives the rhythm section a chance to stretch out. Then the three pick up the pace with a breakneck instrumental take of All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm.

Hamilton’s spacious solo makes an apt centerpiece in a midtempo swing version of Dearly Beloved. The decision to approach Out of Nowhere as loose-limbed tropicalia pays off, especially for the rhythm section. The band revert to strolling swing with If I Should Lose You, Hamilton’s most acerbic solo here handing off to the elder Fulton’s Satchmo-influenced lines and a coyly triumphant solo from the younger one.

The best version of My Old Flame may be by Spike Jones: Fulton creates nebulous wee-hours atmosphere with it. The whole band close the record with a comfortably conversational Bluebird. If you like the originals, there’s plenty more entertainment here.

November 6, 2020 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment