Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Kelly Green Brings Her Vintage Jazz Voice and Sophisticated Postbop Compositions to Smalls Next Month

The sound of a siren in passing traffic opens pianist/singer Kelly Green’s new album Life Rearranged, streaming at Spotify. In addition to a mix of standards, some striking originals with flashes of greatness pervade this urbane, classy, purist album: Green is someone to keep your eye on. The material is typically on the melancholy side but with occasional wistful humor. Vocally, Sarah Vaughan seems to be an obvious influence; on the keys, Green plays with a strong sense for space and a flair for the unexpected. She and her group are playing the album release show on Dec 13 at 10:30 PM at Smalls; cover is $20 and includes a drink.

The spaciously forlorn opening track is just piano and vocals, a jazz tone poem of sorts until Jonathan Barber’s rustling drums finally come in at the very end before a coda that’s too pricelessly apt and instantly identifiably New York to give away. It’s a good start.

Green’s voice takes on a knowing, resolutely insistent Sarah Vaughan-esque tone in Never Will I Marry, Josh Evans’ trumpet and Green’s judicious piano punctuating this swing shuffle. That similarly emphatic vocal delivery contrasts with her pointillistically striking piano in I’ll Know, Christian McBride’s subtle bass slipping in at the end.

Vibraphonist Steve Nelson adds sunburst and then dapple to Little Daffodil as Green and the band artfully shift meters. A strikingly acerbic, rainy-day chart – Evans and Mike Troy on alto sax  – shade the instrumental ballad If You Thought to Ask Me before Green’s spare, poignant piano enters the picture, followed by a moody muted trumpet solo and a vividly cautious bass solo.

Likewise, the horns fuel the harried, noirish bustle of Culture Shock, Green’s emphatic swipes anchoring a balloon-in-the-wind alto solo. The album’s most epic track, the band descends into dissociative Sketches of Spain allusions and flutter loosely to a tightly wound drums solo before jumping back into the rat race again. Evans’ haggard, frenetic modes and ripples bring the intensity upward as the melody grows more Middle Eastern.

Green’s take of I Should Care plays up the lyrics’ resolute irony, matched by McBride’s playfully dancing bass solo and Green’s carefree ornamentation on the 88s. In the same vein, Sunday in New York becomes a vehicle for both Green’s jaunty, irrepressible vocals and hard-hitting piano, McBride again capping everything off on a high note.

Simple Feelings/The Truth is a darkly lustrous, distantly latin-tinged midtempo postbop number, building from austere and ambered to a lively sax/trumpet interweave. Green brings the lights down for a dreamy piano/vibes/vocals take of If I’m Lucky, followed by the scrambling All of You, Troy’s alto scampering through the storm. Green reprises the title track at the album’s end as a full-scale instrumental theme with solos all around and a wry trumpet quote or two. On one hand, it’s great that she has her vocal side: there are unlimited gigs for that. What’s most auspicious is her own compositions, and the outside-the-box sensibility that pervades them. Champian Fulton did an all-instrumental album: maybe Green should be next.

November 17, 2017 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ralph Peterson’s Unity Project Comes Together Mightily

If the names Elvin, Max, Philly Joe, or Tony Williams mean anything to you, you’ll love this album. It’s yet another first-class new B3 jazz record that breaks the mold. Drummer Ralph Peterson’s Unity Project’s new Outer Reaches album was originally conceived as a joint tribute to Larry Young, Woody Shaw and their iconic 1965 Unity album , but morphed into something more original. It’s melodic jazz with strong hooks, Peterson – one of the most consistently interesting and forceful drummers around, and also a strong composer – joined by Josh Evans on trumpet, Jovan Alexandre on tenor and Pat Bianchi on organ. Much as Peterson is a powerful, propulsive presence, he’s also a colorist, alternating between a rumble and a whisper, sometimes simultaneously. He also contributes trumpet here – it’s a fun ride.

They open with Woody Shaw’s The Moontrane, shuffling briskly with absolutely blazing trumpet and more casual sax from Alexandre. Bianchi takes it even more tersely as Peterson lurks on the perimeter, and then the two join forces as they will throughout the album, bubbling up in tandem. Peterson alludes to distant thunder against the horns as it winds out. The second cut, Monk’s Dream is a deliciously radical reinvention, constantly shifting shape – at one point Bianchi takes over both rhythm and melody as Peterson prowls aggressively, Rudy Royston style. The false ending is a lot of fun. A nimble, purposeful organ tune, the title track – an original dedicated to Peterson’s dad – features more expansive perimeter work from the drums, Alexandre again bringing it down to earth after Evans’ joyous extrapolations.

Shaw’s Katrina Ballerina is as lyrical as one would hope, Evans’ understatedly wounded solo followed memorably by a warily expansive one by Alexandre. Peterson can’t resist playfully sideswiping every other beat on a lickety-split version of Shaw’s Beyond All Limits; arguably the most captivating of all the Shaw stuff here is Zoltan, with its artful, shifting horn segments, allusively martial drum intro and jovially spiraling guitar from guest Dave Fiuczynski. But the real standout tracks here are the originals. On My Side is an all-too-brief, slowly unwinding, classic late 50s style ballad with a warmly memorable Alexandre solo; Beyond My Wildest Dream portrays Peterson’s wife as somebody who’s bright, really has her act together but also has a lot of fun, lit up by Evans’ ebullient attack and some more killer interplay with Peterson shadowing Bianchi as he wheels around. And Inside Job is a juicily noirish, catchy theme that Bianchi tackles with casual hints of menace.

You know implied melody, right? Well, Peterson gets deep into implied rhythm on a stunningly terse, minimalistic take of Ritha, by Larry Young – when the organ drops out and leaves it to the drums, the effect is that the blithe shuffle is still going on even though Peterson is only playing about 20% of the time. It’s arguably the high point of the album. There’s also a blistering, funky cover of John McLaughlin’s Spectrum, Fiuczynski in “on” mode all the way through, blowing the Mahavishnu original to smithereens. The only miss here is an attempt to jazz up the Xmas carol We Three Kings – it’s better than Jethro Tull’s version of Good King Wenceslas, but it’s hard to do much with a grammarschool playground singalong: “We three kings of orient are/Tried to smoke a rubber cigar.” No, they don’t sing it. Maybe they should have. Peterson and crew play the cd release show for this one on June 4 at 9 PM at the Cornelia St. Cafe.

May 7, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment