Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Strong Tunesmithing and Bristling Energy on Saxophonist Asaf Yuria’s New Album

There’s nothing sinister or macabre about tenor saxophonist Asaf Yuria’s new album Exorcisms, streaming at Spotify. More likely, it could be about shaking off the rust and the demons of the most hideous year on record with an inspired, energetic sextet. Yuria plays with a slightly smoky tone and writes translucent, purist tunes whose darkness is understated more often than not. He also has a welcome sense of humor.

He kicks off the album with The Bell Ringers, a catchy, swinging, modally-tinged early 60s Prestige-style number. Yuria takes a cheerily energetic solo; trumpeter Josh Evans descends from the clouds and spirals his way up again; drummer Jason Brown has fun chewing the scenery for a bit. It’s a strong opener.

Lotus Moon is a clave tune with bright horn harmonies that hint at New Orleans, with Evans flurrying while pianist Jeremy Manasia shifts toward a more latin attack, the bandleader pulling hard away from the center up to a wry false ending.

The band follow a resonantly harmonized series of waves as they gather steam in Wise Eyes. Yuria’s bluesiness gives way to bassist Ben Meigners’ spare incisions. Manasia ripples around with allusive disquiet; Brown’s surreal textures behind Yuria’s pensive solo are an imaginative touch.

Although there’s some growl and crush to kick off the album’s title track, it’s more McCoy Tyner than Mike Oldfield, with pulsing horns and perambulating solos from Yuria and trombonist Jonathan Voltzok before Manasia’s allusively fanged attack caps it off.

A percolating clave introduces lustrous horn interchanges which grow livelier as Out of the Mist motors along. Yuria prowls and choose his spots while the band edge further toward Brazil, Voltzok and Evans taking their time, Manasia again seizing the moment to hit the high-beams.

The energy bristles intensely with modal piano and suspenseful horn harmonies as the band launch into Bright Night Light Flight, Voltzok’s bustle receding for Yuria’s rise from carefree to gritty, Manasia bringing a sense of calm this time over Brown’s colorful accents.

The closing number is Mindful Breath, which with its hard-charging, conversational drive is far removed from meditative contemplation, although the band have a great time with it..

December 6, 2021 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

B3 Overkill? NEVER!

Isn’t it funny how the world’s full of bad guitarists…bad sax players…bad drummers…but when you think about it, how many bad B3 players are there? For one reason or another, that’s one instrument that seems to draw an endless supply of passionate players. One of the most energetic of all of them is longtime Pat Martino collaborator Tony Monaco, who has a massive double cd release, Celebration, a “limited edition” out from Summit. What Monaco writes and plays is a sophisticated update on boisterous afterwork 60s organ-lounge jazz, more Bombay martini than gin and water. Monaco’s typical m.o. – which he actually varies from frequently here – is to open with a blistering, machinegun solo followed by tuneful restatements of the melody. For someone as fast and furious as this guy, it’s impressive how he doesn’t waste notes. Just as impressive is his command of an eclectic mix of styles.

The first cd is mainly trio or quartet numbers featuring Ken Fowser on tenor sax, Jason Brown or Reggie Jackson on drums and Derek DiCenzo on guitar. With its jaunty, Bud Powell-esque hooks, the most memorable track here is Fowser’s Ninety Five, a cut that originally appeared on the saxophonist’s brilliant 2010 collaboration with vibraphonist Behn Gillece; Monaco takes it in more of a vintage soul direction. Throughout these songs, Fowser’s misty, airy lines create a nifty balance with Monaco’s irrepressible intensity, whether on the Lonnie Smith-flavored Daddy Oh, the lickety-split shuffle Aglio e Olio, or the lurid, minor-key boudoir jazz of Indonesian Nights, which nails the kind of vibe Grover Washington Jr. was trying to do in the 80s but didn’t have the right arrangements for.

The endless parade of styles continues with a pretty bossa tune turned in a much darker direction with Monaco’s funereal timbres beneath Fowser’s bracing microtones, followed by what could be termed a B3 tone poem. Guest pianist Asako Itoh’s You Rock My World takes a familiar soul/funk groove and adds a terse, biting edge; there’s also a gospel number complete with church choir; the off-center, bustling Bull Years, which eventually smoothes out into a soul/blues shuffle; the carefree, wry It’s Been So Nice To Be With You and a scampering Jimmy Smith homage.

The second disc is just as eclectic and features a rotating cast of characters including guitarists Bruce Forman, Ted Quinlan and Robert Kraut, drummers Byron Landham, Vito Rezza, Louis Tsamous and Adam Nussbaum, saxophonist Donny McCaslin, trombonist Sarah Morrow and trumpeter Kenny Rampton. There’s even a Joey Defrancesco cameo (liner notes indicating who’s where would have been useful, at least in terms of giving credit where due). In general, this material is more funk-infused, with soulful, judiciously bluesy guitar (that Monaco could get such consistency out of so many players is impressive). Monaco’s rapidfire cascades and tidal chords set the tone on the opening number, Acid Wash; Rampton’s animated lines elevate the shuffling Backward Shack, the guitar throwing off some unexpected Chet Atkins lines. There are a couple of extended numbers here, both of them choice: the practically ten-minute, aptly titled Takin’ My Time, with its long launching pad of an organ crescendo, and the even longer Slow Down Sagg, where Monaco finally goes off into wild noise as it reaches critical mass. There’s also Booker T. Jones style soul, a couple of blues numbers, a jump blues and a couple of gospel tunes, all delivered with passion and virtuosity. Any fan of organ jazz who doesn’t know this guy is missing out: count this among the most enjoyable jazz releases of 2012, all 133 minutes of it.

August 15, 2012 Posted by | funk music, gospel music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, soul music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment