Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Brian Lynch Salutes Some Undeservedly Obscure Jazz Trumpet Heroes

More musicians should be doing what trumpeter Brian Lynch has done with his Unsung Heroes series, “a tribute to some underappreciated trumpet masters.” Lynch has created the series – now a trio of albums, available for download along with extensive liner notes at www.holisticmusicworks.com – to regenerate interest in several unjustly underrated or even forgotten horn greats. Volume 2 – streaming in its entirety at Lynch’s Bandcamp page– is also now out on cd featuring the trumpeter alongside Vincent Herring on alto sax, Alex Hoffman on tenor sax, Rob Schneiderman on piano, David Wong on bass and Pete Van Nostrand on drums. Lynch’s tribute emphasizes his obscure greats’ tunesmithing, eschewing explosive cadenzas and garish displays of extended technique in favor of a sometimes clear, sometimes balmy tone and a purist lyricism, in the tradition, rooted in the blues. In a more expansive sense, what Lynch is doing here is a more long-form take on the jukebox style of jazz that JD Allen has revitalized lately. Long, expansive takes give the band a chance to stretch out and take their time with them, resulting in the kind of relaxed, soulful playing that all too often gets lost in the frantic scramble to wrap up a recording date these days.

Tommy Turrentine’s It Could Be kicks off this volume, a nonchalantly catchy swing tune, Herring’s alto solo coalescing out of bop flurries and handing off to Lynch, who takes it in a steadily lyrical direction as he does throughout the album. Among the handful of quartet numbers here, the standout is Joe Gordon’s slow, balmy ballad Heleen, which the band methodically work their way into gentle, matter-of-fact wee-hours swing. Sandy, by Howard McGhee goes from complicated to bright, carefree and bluesy, Lynch adding some energetic doublestops when he’s not running eights, Hoffman following with a bobbing, weaving attack.

The first of three Idrees Sulieman tunes, Short Steps follows a similar path from enigmatic to brighter, Schneiderman’s terse piano handing off to Lynch’s balmy atmospherics as it winds out. Sulieman’s Out/Dancing Shoes has the whole ensemble leaping around drum breaks with an agile grin. The last of his songs, Orange Blossoms is cast as a slow summery ballad with an undercurrent of unease; Lynch’s long, wary, steady grey-skies solo is his best on this album  Lynch’s own Marissa’s Mood, a jump blues, portays Lynch’s wife as graceful, agile and fun  And oldschool – this is a hit!

Lynch’s advocacy for Turrentine is particularly forceful in the wistful, nostalgic ballad Gone But Not Forgotten, which in a fair world would be a standard. ‘Nother Never, a Lynch original dedicated to Louis Smith, gets a lively trumpet/drums intro, a lickety-split swing and then an almost dixieland bustle. They close much the way they started with Donald Byrd’s I’m So Excited By You, resisting the urge to swing it as hard as they can til midway through, Lynch playfully jousting with Van Nostrand on the way out.

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November 9, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

High Voltage from the South Florida Jazz Orchestra

The title of the South Florida Jazz Orchestra’s new album Trumpet Summit is a dead giveaway. Interestingly, for a Miami-based band, this ferocious stuff is less Cuban-influenced than it is cinematic (although they crank up Roberto Quintero’s congas and guest Martin Bejerano‘s tumbling piano on the blazing salsa highway theme Read My Lips). Bassist Chuck Bergeron leads this monstrosity nimbly: when the whole crew is going full steam, the effect is spectacular, but he saves those moments for when they’re needed, often focusing on a soloist backed by just the rhythm section and then working up a crescendo from there.

Their arrangement of Clifford Brown’s Daahoud makes a good, intense opener, with neat dixieland-flavored brass/reeds harmonies and a series of increasingly explosive trumpet solos. It’s not clear who’s doing what, but the cast – which includes Wayne Bergeron, Brian Lynch, Jason Carder,Greg Gisbert, Alex Norris, Cisco Dimas, Augie Haas and Kim Pensyl – has a great time with it.

One of the album’s most interesting numbers is a scorchingly original version of Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You. Guest vocalist Nicole Yarling reminds of Abbey Lincoln with her determined, nonchalant menace over a lushly pulsing arrangement with sudden tempo shifts. Blues for the Terrible Twos – a diptych, which makes sense – begins as a swing blues with more trumpet handoffs, then pianist Brian Murphy brings in a genially shuffling ragtime groove that one of the trumpets eventually takes all the way to the roof.

Peer Pressure, by Lynch has a suspenseful sweep and majesty, ominous low brass teaming with piano on the lows, trumpet and trombones driving the swells, drummer John Yarling adding aggressive, counterintuitive accents. Another Lynch tune, One for Mogie is a bluesy waltz with tv theme-style brightness, spiced with a surreal who-me tenor solo from Ed Calle and an insistent Murphy solo. Bergeron’s Good Addiction takes the album out on a high note with its almost imperceptible crescendos and scampering modalities, Murphy’s hypnotic, intense pedalpoint anchoring the cumulo-nimbus attack overhead. There’s also a richly moody, torchy take of Sophisticated Lady fueled by Murphy’s  third-stream chordal approach and Mike Brignola’s smoky, rustling baritone sax, plus a dynamically-charged version of All the Things You Are. Thumbs up to the rest of the players on this often wild ride: alto saxophonists Gary Keller and Gary Lindsay; tenor saxophonists Ed Maina and Ken Mattis; trombonists Dana Teboe, Dante Luciani, John Kricker and Joanna Sabater; bass trombonist Jennifer Wharton and timbalero Raymer Olalde. It’s out on Summit Records.

February 12, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Album Kills Fascists

These guys just plain get it. The Curtis Brothers barrel into their new album Completion of Proof with both eyes open, fearless and unintimidated. In the spirit of Mingus, Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln during the Civil Rights era, and more recent jazz artists like Howard Wiley and Tain Watts, they take a skeptical and often savage look at the structure of society in the post-9/11 age. Forget that the tunes here have a blazing power: pianist/composer Zaccai Curtis’ liner notes are worth the price of the album all by themselves. Most of these songs – and they are songs, in the purest sense of the word – take their inspiration from the ongoing struggle against encroaching fascism, one way or another. But the Curtis Brothers aren’t simply critiquing – they’re offering solutions. As melodic jazz goes, this might be the best album of the year: it’s as important as it is catchy. While there’s a crowd who might pigeonhole this as latin jazz, and there’s definitely a delicious tropical slink to a lot of this, it defies such an easy categorization. It’s just good.

The opening track, Protestor, is dedicated to the guy who won the staredown with the army tank at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacres. It’s got hard-hitting, insistent piano, imperturbable Brian Lynch trumpet and sailing Donald Harrison alto sax with the powerhouse Ralph Peterson a spot-on choice of drummer for this song, and for that matter, this project. Bright hooks fade out over his tanklike rumble. The edgy, vivid, modally tinged second track is a dedication to Curtis’ niece, Madison, scrambling nimbly with an especially optimistic solo spot for bassist Luques Curtis. Named for the Bay of Bengal islanders whose centuries-old attentiveness to the world around them saved them from the 2008 tsunami, The Onge is a potently cinematic piece, kicking off with pulsing bass and a bustling two-horn attack – and eventually a triumphant if completely hectic run to the hills led by Zaccai Curtis.

The album’s centerpiece is a triptych, the Manifest Destiny Suite. It’s meant to illustrate the psychological and sociological mechanics of fascism: an awfully tall order for an instrumental work, but Zaccai Curtis succeeds with it, brilliantly. Part one, aptly titled The Wrath, underscores how kissing up to tyrants never works: this one’s dedicated to the school hall monitor, but it would work just as well for the Judenrat, or a contestant on the Donald Trump Show. Luques Curtis’ booming bass chords anchor this angry, chromatically-fueled depiction of a bully, Jimmy Greene’s tenor prowling suspiciously, drums and Pedrito Martinez’ percussion pummeling and rattling uneasily as the bandleaders hammer the point home sarcastically, over and over. Part two, Mass Manipulation examines how the corporate media distracts, Balkanizes and disempowers us. Zaccai Curtis works a wickedly sneaky variation on the tyrant theme over a noirish, rolling Afro-Cuban groove, all the way down to a depressing little waltz of sorts and then an absolutely gorgeously interwoven arrangement as the horns carry the tune, the piano ripples and the bass and piano work in tandem, bobbing to the surface. The concluding section is a reminder of the high price of the failure to follow Jefferson’s advice about eternal vigilance, richly illustrated with big, syncopated charts and more intricate but hard-hitting interplay.

The rest of the album balances the upbeat, optimistic son montuno anthem Sol Within against the explosively towering cautionary tale Jazz Conspiracy, a nightmarish portrayal of what happens when the corporations completely take over replete with creepy dissonances, sarcastic faux-martial cadenzas and bleating brass. As a whole, it leaps to the front of the pack of contenders for best jazz album of 2011.

And while it’s nice to see something this edgy and worthwhile getting coverage in a place like the NY Times, it would be an understatement to say that their reviewer didn’t get it. Did he even listen to the album? That seems doubtful.

November 6, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment