Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Mitz’s New Work

[Editor’s note: Thanks to Sami Abu Shumays of seemingly forever shapeshifting but always captivating Egyptian film music revivalists Zikrayat for the heads-up about this one.]

The album title, Mitz’s New Work is a pun. This began as a collaboration, the New York project of Greek/American pianist Dimitri Mikelis and drummer Julien Augier. The cd cover’s a brown-tinted shot of the Ditmars Boulevard N/W platform, so: N,W. Get it? Mikelis is joined here by a first-rate cast of Alex Terrier on saxes and Alan Bjorklund on cornet along with Pascal Niggenkemper on upright bass. Additionally, Loinel Loueke lends his imaginative guitar touch to three tracks.

The cd kicks off with American Minare and its staggered beat – aside from the fluttering horn cresdendo at the head, it’s not the strongest cut on the album. But stick with it: you will be rewarded. Nine to Eleven Days a Week has a wash of eerie sax (run through a flange pedal) playing call-and-response with the cornet as the piano and rhythm section echo each other sparsely: it’s a strange and instantly gripping tune. Mikelis is also fluent on the oud, and his approach to an Arabic-influenced improvisation on Takasim (Arabic for jam) is as beautifully plaintive as it is true to form. His piano voicings and the way he builds the tune, adding sparse bass notes as the right hand cascades along, are wonderfully suspenseful, setting up the stark two-chord flooring for the next number, Fifteen Monkeys. Mikelis and then Niggenkemper keep it dark and simple with distant echoes of Monk while layers of sax, with and without effects, swoop and dive overhead, eventually climbing all over the place, Curious George style, looking for trouble.

With its bright yet wary and ominous melody, eventually bringing in the cornet to brighten things up a bit (and then darken them again), The First Man (Who Trusted Me) evokes the more pensive side of Peter Apfelbaum or maybe Pam Fleming. The beautifully melodic Katolisthisi builds from a fluttery intro to a catchy descending progression from the horn and reeds and then a brisk yet breezy solo from Terrier. By contrast, Lunar is an ensemble piece, sailing along on an exuberantly intricate, supremely melodic arrangement. Pendovola introduces a brief Greek dance theme, shifts to a happy fanfare, then Loueke and Augier bring it down with incisive accents while Mikelis works just behind the scenes, adding a playful hint of chaos as the melody rises and falls. The cd wraps up with a big show-stopper, Kabanario, an eerie piano piece punctuated by wild, effects-laden sax until Mikelis finally takes off with pointedly fiery insistence. Fans of melodic, purist jazz shouldn’t miss the chance to get to know this crew: watch this space for upcoming NYC dates.

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December 10, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment