Intimacy with a group of performers has its pros and cons. If the crew onstage are on their game, everyone in the audience feels like they’re in it with them. By the same token, in close quarters you hear every mistake. So it was especially rewarding to watch the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony from up close this past Sunday on the Upper East Side, through an unselfconsciously triumphant, blemish-free, world-class performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 as well as Samuel Barber’s Knoxville Summer of 1915 and Bartok’s paradigm-shifting Dance Suite, Sz. 77, 86a.
The subtext of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 mirrors its triumphant bursts and dips: “So you think I’m deaf,” the composer retorts: “Wait til you hear the tunes I’ve got in my head.” Conductor David Bernard led the ensemble from memory, quickly establishing a dichotomy between lingering lustre from the brass and winds and a brisk efficiency from the strings. He brought out every bit of that dreamy/acerbic contrast with a pinpoint, precise articulation, through the the regal waltz of the second movement, the bubbly dynamic leaps and dips of the third and the sweeping, majestic crescendos of the third, unafraid to let Beethoven’s puckish wit peek out from between the towering peaks at the end.
If the subtext of the Beethoven is beating the odds, the subtext of the Barber is apprehension, the calm of a southern night veiling a relentless alienation. Soprano Tamra Paselk channeled that with a minutely focused, dynamically rich performance that didn’t shy away from the waiting gloom in James Agee’s lyric. At one point early on she seemed overcome by the bittersweetness of the imagery: watching her fight and quickly pull herself out of that emotional abyss was shattering to witness. The classical world abounds with cookie-cutter singers: how refreshing to hear a singer who articulates not only the syllables – something too few classically-trained voices consistently do – but also the underlying content. The orchestra provided an aptly pillowy and then cloudy backdrop.
As joyous and refreshing as the Beethoven was, the Bartok was even better. It’s an early post-World War I piece, as challenging as anything Stravinsky ever wrote, sort of a less rhythmic take on what the Russian composer was going for with Le Sacre du Printemps. Like Stravinsky, Bartok uses his native land’s folk dances as a stepping-off point, if he doesn’t go back as many centuries (or maybe even millennia) as Stravinsky did. This performance was awash in rich irony: a caustically sarcastic pairing of bassoon and cello; deadpan noir Keystone Kops romps; Balkan chromatics and agitation alternating with the occasionally calmer, balletesque pulse. Bernard kept the suspense relentless, a look of eager anticipation on his face, as if to say, “Just stay with it, I can tell you’re feeling it,” and the orchestra responded in kind. The future may be cloudy for big metropolitan symphony orchestras but it looks positively sunny for community-based groups like this one. The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony’s next performance is May 3 at 8 PM, repeating on May 4 at 3 PM with Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 and the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 featuring soloist Spencer Meyer. And a smaller ensemble closer in size to the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony’s name performs wind quintets and sextets by Mozart, Taffanel and Poulenc on March 16 at 3 PM at All Saints Church, 230 E 60th St (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues).
Audiences don’t typically go to symphony orchestra concerts to be held rapt by meticulous counterpoint, or a perfect balance between ominous strings and animated brass, or to watch the orchestra trace a line straight back from Brahms to Bach. People come out to be swept away by the beauty of the music. We’ve all heard the horror stories about how classical music is in its death throes, with the graying of its fan base, the New York City Opera in bankruptcy, ad nauseum. But by judging by the size, enthusiasm, and sheer diversity of the crowd at the Greenwich Village Orchestra‘s Sunday performance, there are some circles where classical music is absolutely thriving.
And it’s safe to assume that these crowds wouldn’t be so engaged and supportive if the GVO didn’t deliver such spirited performances. Obviously, ensembles like this one benefit from a lighter workload, a greater number of rehearsals and fewer of the hassles that bedevil higher-profile orchestras, including but not limited to recycling the same old warhorses night after night while juggling an incessantly erratic barrage of newer works that often clash ridiculously with the older repertoire.
It’s a familiar formula: get the crowd’s attention with something lively, bring it down with something quieter and more substantial and then up again for a big rousing finale. And for the GVO it worked like a charm this time out. With a meticulous attention to dynamic shifts and contrasts, guest conductor Pierre Vallet brought the curtain up with a trio of pieces from Berlioz’s “concert opera” The Damnation of Faust. The first selection, Menuet des Follets, got a jolly, balletesque sway balanced by pillowy strings; the second, Ballet des Sylphes, had a nocturnal if not particularly nymphlike sweep; the third, the Rakoczy March (based on the Hungarian national song) broght the boisterously dancing energy back up.
Vallet then switched gears with a richly uneasy triptych from Ravel’s Sheherezade, a potently intense counterpart to the blitheness of the Berlioz. This particular suite, in contrast to the famous one by Rimsky-Korsakov, doesn’t bother to so much as hint at the Middle East: instead, it’s a moody, atmospheric series of art-songs. Soprano Sasha Cooke blended seamlessly into the washes of strings with a judicious wariness that was far from arioso and all the more effective for it. The opening piece, Asie, wasn’t the least bit Asian, the orchestra and singer hanging back on its swells and dips, letting the brooding, underlying stillness linger: after all, at this point Sheherezade doesn’t yet know that the finicky sultan isn’t going to kill her. The second, La Flute Enchantée, set Simon Dratfield’s bubbly yet cautiously measured flute against similarly measured rises and falls from the ensemble. The third, L’indifferent, achieved the same persistent suspense.
The concert ended joyously with Brahms’ Symphony No. 4. What was most enjoyable about Vallet’s interpretation from this particular vantage point was how historically informed it was, putting the music in context. That luxuriantly driving first movement quickly got a chance to reveal itself as a fugue, albeit one all dressed up for a night out! The second was done as proto Southwestern gothic, the orchestra playing up its Spanish tinge for all it was worth before moving on to bright string/brass contrasts.The sheer fun of the third movement, complete with cinematic chase scene midway through, provoked spontaneous applause from the crowd. The symphony and concert concluded on an appropriately impactful, rhythmic coda that was just short of puglistic, with its triumphant, Beethovenesque series of false endings awash in equal amounts lustre and neo-Baroque counterpoint. The Greenwich Village Orchestra’s next concert, on March 30 at 3 PM, has an even more auspicious program, maestro Barbara Yahr leading the group with guest violinist Hye-Jin Kim through Samuel Barber’s Adagio and Violin Concerto plus Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. The concerts take place at the sonically excellent Washington Irving Auditorium, Irving Place at 17th Street; tickets are a $15 suggested donation, with a reception to follow.
Pianist John Medeski has an upcoming residency at the Stone from Feb 18 through 23 with sets at 8 and 10 PM featuring a diverse cast of characters, mostly a series of trio performances. While it’s a safe assumption that some of those sets will to some extent reprise the kind of grooves he made a name for himself with in Medeski Martin & Wood, recent years have seen Medeski play with a depth that transcends anything he ever did with MMW. In other words, Medeski is at the absolute peak of his career right now as both a composer and performer. His latest album A Different Time, the first release on the recently revived OKeh label, is a highly improvised solo piano quasi-suite that draws on influences as diverse as noir piano legend Ran Blake, Erik Satie, Ravel and the early Modernists as well as later 20th century minimalism.
The backstory is interesting: Medeski thought he had the album in the can until producer Henry Hirsch encouraged Medeski to try his studio’s 1924 Gaveau piano, built in a nineteenth century style that allows (and in fact requires) more nuance than the Steinway model that was being used to track the album. A little messing around turned out to be a revelation, so Medeski ended up re-cutting the tracks on the Gaveau, in the process adding a lot of unplanned material.
The result is soulful and frequently troubled music. Medeski plays these vignettes with a pensive, uneasy and utterly unpredictable rubato – he likes to pedal the lows and ornament his lingering, brooding themes with rippling upper-register filigrees and clusters of grace notes, moving upward or downward with the flick of a wrist. The album’s opening title track of sorts moves from a resonant rainy-day atmosphere through the hint of an anthem, a restart at the bottom of the scale, lingering Satie-esque minimalism, and then tumbling/tinkling motives that wouldn’t be out of place in the Federico Mompou repertoire
Medeski teases the listener as the cinematic, neoromantic prelude I’m Falling slowly morphs into a fullscale ballad. He adds clever palindrome effects to a quirky reinterpretation of the spiritual His Eye Is on the Sparrow, then offers a homage to Blake – with whom Medeski studied at New England Conservatory – via a careful march that defiantly resists any resolution even as it hints at the blues. Graveyard Fields works suspenseful allusions to Asian melody and a moody waltz, while Luz Marina, an elegy for an orphan girl, references both the blues and a Satie Gymnopedie, coalescing with a Brad Mehldau-like vividness.
Medeski follows the gospel-tinged miniature Waiting at the Gate with Lacrima, whose morose insistence matches its spaciousness, again echoing Blake at his most moody and pensive. The album ends with an ironically elegaic, resonant, allusively bluesy remake of Otis, a track from MMW’s debut album. Is this jazz improvisation? Definitely. Classical music? Why not? And it testifies powerfully to the kind of literally transcendent results you can get when you defamiliarize and throw yourself into an unexpected situation.
When she was invited up to the McDowell Colony last year to compose, alto saxophonist Sarah Manning was not in a good place, she alluded between songs at her show Saturday night at I-Beam. But her time in the New Hampshire woods turned out to be exactly what she needed to reboot, and she showed off several of the kinetic, sometimes achingly intense compositions she’d come up with there, taken from her brilliant new album Harmonious Creature. Onstage, Manning’s tone is less brassy and more nuanced than it tends to be in the studio; attackwise, she went from a wail to a wisp and often back up again, precise and purposeful. For whatever reason, maybe because she has an album release show coming up at 8:30 PM on Feb 20 at Cornelia St. Cafe, this gig was more about tunes than pyrotechnics or jousting.
Bassist Rene Hart’s hypnotic, pulsing circular lines often held the center as drummer Allison Miller ornamented the songs with a misterioso, John Hollenbeck-like pointillism. What’s it like to watch Miller play quietly? Infrequent, let’s say – but she finally hit a long cyclotron rumble which was just plain classic, and worth the price of admission all by itself. Meanwhile, guitarist Jonathan Goldberger and violist Fung Chern Hwei alternated between resonant atmospherics and incisive solo passages. Goldberger used his sustain pedals for almost clarinet-like tone that built with the viola to a magical, enveloping mist on the night’s elegantly waltzing opening number, Copland on Cornelia St. Then Manning led the band with a hypercaffeinated drive through the bitingly catchy Don’t Answer to the Question.
Grey Dawn Red Fox worked a similar dynamic, Miller’s insistent implied clave paired with Manning’s dancing lines against a lingering grey-sky backdrop. Tune of Cats saw Manning airing out her lower register, Miller matching her unease, throwing elbows everywhere versus the rest of the band’s resolute calm. They worked a tight push-pull on the acerbic Radish Spirit and then backed away through a considerably more acidic reworking of Neil Young’s On the Beach. The enigmatic, brooding Three Chords for Jessica was a highlight, as was the second set’s closing number, What the Blues Left Behind. Manning explained it as an illustration of the flush of contentment – hopefully without your ears ringing too hard – that you get after a good set or a good night watching somebody play one. The long series of false endings at the end wound up this eclectic and intriguing evening on an aptly reflective note.
[Editor's note - this blog's sister publication/online place New York Music Daily appropriated all the rock, blues, and occasionally some of the jazz - including this one, which they're sharing with us]
Jazz guitar legend Peter Leitch once joked grimly that in order to get steady work, maybe he should don a straw hat and play nothing written after, say, 1930. Seth Kessel and the Two Cent Band embody that esthetic, with their own original tunesmithing – and get a lot of work in the process. Their latest album is the aptly titled In the Golden Days, streaming at their Bandcamp page. Kessel plays energetically and eclectically on a hollowbody electric, straight through his amp without effects, alongside Gabriel Yonkler on soprano and tenor sax, Jackson Hardaker on trombone and tuba, Jason Bertone on bass and either Yaeir Heber or Hironori Momoi behind the drums. Kessel is also an excellent singer with an unaffectedly wry delivery and writes clever, funny lyrics in the spirit if not exactly the vernacular of the hot jazz he obviously loves so much.
The title track hints that it’s going to go in a noir direction but instead becomes a sardonic, lickety-split circus rock shuffle: the golden days when “we sat in the street, drank malt liquor and didn’t eat” had their ups and downs. The kiss-off swing anthem Don’t Contact Me is a lot of fun: “You know what, I take back that apology, you never bothered putting money down at Milk and Honey after getting paid for helping a friend, and all the while expecting to get laid,” Kessel relates. Southern Fried splices a twistedly noisy rock guitar solo onto a period-perfect Louis Jordan-style jump blues. They give the old standard Some of These Days a droll circus intro, a rapidfire, mandolin-like Kessel solo and then speed it up at the end – it sounds like a big concert favorite.
The strongest tune here might be Theme Song for Gregory Sallust, a moody, Romany-tinged waltz with biting soprano sax and a trombone solo that goes from blippy to brooding at the drop of a dime. The Chuck Berry-ish Let That Train Roll By looks back on one of the ones that got away – this one was definitely somebody to avoid, Yonkler’s smoky tenor sax handing off to Kessel’s noisy gutbucket solo. “I was hardly sober when you screwed me over,“ Kessel muses in the wry but understatedly vengeful Goodbye July, lit up by jaunty soprano sax, a guitar solo that mixes C&W and the blues, and a low, somewhat tongue-in-cheek one from the trombone.
They reinvent the old blues ballad After You’ve Gone as lickety-split swing, sly lowdown tombone grounding it in reality. In the Early Night is an amusingly telling look at one aspect of a Brooklyn musician’s life in 2014, getting hit on by rich gentrifier girls and not minding the influx of cash with mysterious origins. The conspiratorially cinematic instrumental Kestrel’s Revolution works a hi-de-ho theme with Balkan tinges. Turn the Heavens, a steady, shuffling ode to nocturnal entertainment of the adult variety, reminds that while this band may not do dixieland as tightly as some others do, they definitely have the spirit. The album winds up with an apprehensively scurrying oldtimey folk number. Kessel plays in a lot of projects; this band currrently doesn’t have anything on the calendar, but you can catch his duo show with Pete Matthiesen every Tuesday at 9 at Arcane, 111 Ave. C between 9th and 10th Sts.
Christopher Bono is unquestionably the best composer to come out of the Seattle Mariners’ minor league system (the noted drummer Randy Johnson, also commonly associated with the Mariners, was actually a product of the Montreal Expos organization). In all seriousness, the former baseball farmhand’s most recent indie classical album, Invocations, is streaming at his Bandcamp page. An uncredited orchestral ensemble does a spirited run through Bono’s compositions, which are cinematic in the purest sense of the word: in their own right, they’re films for the ears, and they’d also make strong themes for action-oriented or emotionally charged films yet to be cast.
The Missing, a string quartet piece, is the most intense and direct of the works. Bono develops a pensive, rather stark, somewhat elegaic theme out of a simple three-note motif interrupted by swaying, bending phrases and frenetic, insectile clusters, alternating between a steady, anthemic sway punctuated by hazy ambience. The composer likens it to “a mournful theme and allusions to the music of Haydn, Beethoven, George Crumb and Gloria Coates.”
There are three “invocations” here. The first, Exhaust, sends bracing variations on a dynamic minor-key theme around a mixed string/wind ensemble, quickly building to an 1812 Overture-esque drama. From there, it’s quite a ride, apprehensive cello and viola handling much of the action through moody ambience up to a chase scene, then the cello anchors the plaintive, aching final crescendo.
The second “invocation” is included on the album as an instrumental and also a confusing, unevenly mixed mashup with movie dialogue (it’s not clear if that’s from an actual documentary about space travel or not). The instrumental version is a richly shapeshifting mix of oldschool 50s movie cinematics (think upbeat/parade/fanfare Douglas Sirk film with Alfred Newman score), swirling flutes accentuating the highs, wary violin out front throughout the more emotionally charged interludes, reaching a rapt, bell-like theme that winds down hypnotically. A search for the soul in outer space, maybe?
The third of the invocations has a gentle lullaby quality that rises and falls with a warmly triumphant sensibility, flutes and strings taking it in a more sweeping, epic direction, a vibraphone signaling its majestic final crescendo before closing with a contented ambience. Bono’s next next album, which explores influences as diverse as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Tarot system and multicultural archetypal symbolism, is due out this year. And Bono’s new improvisational ensemble Nous make their New York debut on Feb 2 at 8 PM with Bono on keys along with Greg Fox and Thor Harris on drums and percussion, Shahzad Ismaily on guitar and bass and Grey McMurray on guitar, with numerous special guests including cellist Clarice Jensen, violinist/violist Caleb Burhans, violinist Laura Lutzke, flutist Alex Sopp, Mum cellist/vocalist Imago, and Laraaji & Arji on zither and electronics at Baby’s All Right, 146 Broadway (north of Bedford) in South Williamsburg, J/M trains to Marcy Ave. Cover is $15.
Last night in the Lincoln Center neighborhood, the Fire Pink Trio defied the deep freeze with a fascinating performance that was by turns lively, kinetic and balmy, sponsored by the New York Viola Society. Flutist Debra Reuter-Pivetta, violist Sheila Browne and concert harpist Jacquelyn Bartlett began the evening with Doppler Effect, by Adrienne Albert. Essentially, what the composer does with the effect is very clever – she turns it into a vamp, which the trio latched onto with a verve that matched Albert’s intention of evoking a busy pedestrian plaza in Rome, and the challenge of finding calm amidst the bustle. This purposeful and nonchalantly catchy piece gave Reuter-Pivetta and Browne a chance to air out their resonant lower registers against Bartlett’s rhythmic drive, with some droll glissandoing doppler effects finally appearing as the bluster reached a crescendo.
Next on the bill was Dan Locklair’s Dream Steps, a five-part ballet suite. The trio lept agilely through a demandingly eclectic if melodically bright series of variations that ran the gamut from hints of Italian folk music, the baroque, tango, gospel and blues. Despite the physical challenges of the piece, the group went straight into Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp without an intermission, perhaps lured by its summery sway. In explaining the piece to the audience, Bartlett emphasized the irony behind its enveloping dreaminess, that Debussy was close to death, and probably closer to enemy lines than he knew, when he wrote it at the seaside in 1915. The trio played up the wary/calm dichotomy between viola and flute in the opening pastorale, picked up with a lustrous, wave-like motion on the “minuet” in the middle and then the allegro finale which they made as straightforward and incisive as it was bubbly.
Groups such as this one, who have less to choose from the standard repertoire simply because of their instrumentation, seldom exhibit the kind of intuitive chemistry this ensemble displayed throughout the concert. The Fire Pink Trio have an album due out this spring; and the New York Viola Society maintains an active concert schedule that champions works showcasing the instrument.
It’s a pretty open-and-shut case that Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time is the most riveting piece of music ever written in the bathroom. True story: as clarinetist James Campbell recounted to a mostly sold-out house at Subculture Thursday night, the composer came up with most of the angst-ridden eight-part suite in the latrine at a Nazi prison camp in 1940. A guard there had recognized the French composer and offered him the use of a dilapidated piano, which was moved into the warmest room in the camp…you can guess where that was. The rest is history.
Out of necessity, Messiaen wrote the Quartet for clarinet, piano, violin and cello, considering that was the extent of the available talent pool. Because of this unorthodox instrumentation, the work is rarely staged, although over the years it’s developed a rabid cult following who flock to infrequent performances such as this one. What made this particular concert so auspicious was that it was the Gryphon Trio, arguably the world’s foremost currently active ensemble to tackle the piece with any regularity, joining forces with Campbell. The four recorded it at the Banff Centre a couple of years ago and have performed it perhaps more often than any other group in recent memory other than the quartet Tashi, who made a career out of it.
What special insight would this group bring to the piece? Tons. Campbell and the rest of the ensemble painstakingly parsed brief fragments from the work beforehand to demonstrate how Messiaen’s apocalyptic liturgical themes corresponded with his confinement. As Campbell dryly put it, Messiaen had no assurance that he’d ever leave alive, let alone that the war would end with the Nazis on the losing side.
Because most ensembles who play the piece are essentially pickup groups – not to mention that Messiaen’s tempos thoughout it are so slow – those groups tend to rush it. How did this four approach it? Methodically and intimately: what they grasped more than anything was Messiaen’s defiant subtext of rescue and redemption. Pianist James Parker gave the opening movement more of a mechanically marching rhythm (which could be read as a satire of life in Nazi captivity) and also paired off steadily against Annalee Patipatanakoon’s literally unearthly violin on the rapt outro. But in between, they let the music linger, resonant, otherworldly, sometimes macabre, sometimes alluding to the soul-crushing, numbing effects of being behind bars. Roman Borys’ desolately panoramic, emotionally depleted cello solo against Parker’s bitter resonace in the fifth movement was one of many literally transcendent moments, as were Campbell’s series of long crescendos that suddenly burst into birdsong in the second. These are among the most difficult passages in the chamber music repertoire for a clarinetist, but Campbell matched crystalline nuance to a nimble, picturesque, avian attack. And he captured the offhand cruelty of Messiaen being haunted by hearing but not being able to see the birds he loved so much outside his cell window.
Before the Messiaen, the Gryphon Trio treated the audience to a vivid, energetic, dynamically rich performance of the Ravel Piano Trio. Parker explained that the group would not be shying away from its pre-World War I unease (the composer hurried to finish it so that he could go off to volunteer as an ambulance driver). And the ensemble did exactly that, through the distantly flamenco-tinged opening movement, continuing with what the pianist called its “Cirque de Soleil” interlude and then the kinetic finale which saw the return of the flamenco theme flicker out with a guarded optimism.
Solo albums made on instruments that typically don’t play more than a single pitch at a time are usually of interest only to people who play those instruments. Doug Wieselman‘s warmly ambient, thoughtful, vinyl-only new solo album From Water is the exception to that rule. It’s a minimalist mix of loopmusic played on both clarinet and bass clarinet, occasionally flashing the dry, puckish wit that is one of Wieselman’s signature traits. The other is lyricism, which explains why he’s been one of New York’s most in-demand reedmen for well over a decade with acts from the legendary Kamikaze Ground Crew to Lou Reed and the Dimestore Dance Band. The longtime denizen of the original Knitting Factory/Tonic/Stone scene is playing the album release show for this one, presumably solo, on Feb 4 at 10:30 PM at the Poisson Rouge for $10.
The compositions’ unifying theme is melody influenced by the sound of water and wind, a close listen to the sounds of the earth and what they might imply and an elegantly shifting counterpart to what Handel did over 200 years ago. A handful of the works here are miniatures, the rest of them fairly brief, around five minutes or less. The opening piece sets long, layered tones over a quietly looping traintrack rhythm, Wieselman developing a rather plaintive melody with a clear, crystalline sostenuto. On a couple of other tracks, Wieselman’s pulsing, corkscrew loops evoke bagpipes, especially where he utilizes close harmonies, spinning them back through the mix with a kaleidoscopic swirl. In many of these numbers, he deftly orchestrates a calm/animated dichotomy, with spirals, trills and tersely melismatic motives set against a drone or a calmly circular phrase. Jazz is rarely if ever referenced here, the blues only distantly, although there are several nostalgic, folksy interludes and a long vamp with more than a hint of vintage 60s soul music.
There’s a pastorale where you might pull off your headphones to see if a certain sound is coming from your radiator, and also a choral version of that work, seemingly an arrangement for two voices recorded live. While there are a handful of passages where Wieselman utilizes his vaunted technique for some lickety-split arpeggios and trills, the album’s overall effect is soothing and contemplative. Turn on, drop the needle in the groove, you know the rest.
Vibraphonist Mark Sherman and tenor saxophonist Bob Franceschini are old friends from the NYC scene since their days as classmates at the High School of Music and Art, dreaming of having a band together and doing whatever other things up-and-coming jazz guys did back in the 70s. At last, now they have that band, wryly calling themselves Project Them, and an interesting and rewardingly tuneful album out from Miles High that follows what was by all accounts an energetic and well-received European tour. The crew here also includes Mitchel Forman on piano and organ, Martin Djakonovski on bass and Adam Nussbaum on drums, You might not expect such lyricism as there is here from a bunch of guys with reps as hardbop heavy-hitters with virtuoso chops and intellectual rigor to match.
But there is. Sherman’s Submissive Dominants kicks off the album with a hard-hitting, cinematic latin-tinged theme, which they take swinging with an expansive sax solo that goes from scanning the horizon to skimming over it, Sherman echoing that approach over a lightly galloping pulse. Franceschini’s Sleight of Hand is next, adding a wickedly catchy hint of funk in the same vein as Ken Fowser and Behn Gillece’s recent jukebox jazz work,
Nussbaum’s We 3 begins as a balmy ballad and picks up with sunny sax over lingering vibes and a slowly dancing rhythm. Solitude, by Sherman, considers the upside to being alone, calm and catchy with hints of Steely Dan and Pat Metheny.The South Song, by Djakonovski, works understated, tersely modal territory, Froman’s spacious guitarlike piano chords handing off to Sherman’s meticulously expansive solo and then a similarly considered, upper midrange, woodtoned one from the composer. Franceschini’s Minor Turns brings back the jaunty syncopation of the second track, Froman switching to organ behind the sax’s lively clusters.
They do Johnny Mandel’s Close Enough for Love with almost a reggae pulse, and then a couple of numbers with Italian pianist Paolo di Sabatino, who contributes Short Swing – a funky minor blues in disguise – and Ma Bo’s Waltz, which nicks a very, very familiar theme immortalized by Coltrane. The album ends up with Sherman’s Angular Blues, an organ tune that raises the ante with the album’s most vigorous departure into the bop that these guys have in their fingers.
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