miércoles, 5 de noviembre de 2014

Ken Thomson and Slow / Fast - Settle (2014)

Source: Ken Thomson 
Label: NCM East Records

Settle, the new recording from Ken Thomson and Slow/Fast, exhibits the kind of stylistic breadth and alert experimentation that one would expect from a leader famed for his work in both the worlds of new jazz and contemporary classical music. Alto saxophonist, bass clarinetist and composer Thomson - a co-founder of the acclaimed band Gutbucket and a recent addition to the Bang On A Can All-Stars—digs deeper into uncharted musical realms with Slow/Fast, a visionary quintet that includes the guitar phenomenon Nir Felder, trumpeter Russ Johnson, bassist Adam Armstrong and drummer Fred Kennedy.
Settle, the band’s second album, will be released onSeptember 23, 2014on NCM East Records (40138).
Combining the sounds of improvisation-filled chamber jazz with the lucidity of contemporary classical
composition–infused with distortion-laden twists that reveal the band’s embrace of rock influence.
Thomson and Slow/Fast bring new ideas to small group jazz. Vivid composition rather than head solo head norms prevail here, lending the album a freshness that leads the listener on a journey to unexplored, yet inviting, sonic landscapes.
The five main pieces on Settle were developed after the band toured behind their debut record. Each piece has a discernable focus and theme whether the ever shifting grooves of “Settle", thepushing of Thomson and Felder to new heights on “We Are Not All In This Together,” the wild use of instrumentation on “Bend Towards Light,” or the wide compositional dramatic arc of “Spring”, but all display the seamless interweave of rigorous composition and exhilarating go for broke improvising that has become the calling card of this outfit.
Settle is the sound of a compact band creating a massive musical groundswell.
Slow/Fast has remained consistent in its personnel since the release of the band’s first album.
"It Would Be easier If", in 2010. Finding its way on to many of the Jazz Journalist Association's Best of 2010 lists, the debut recording also received a featured New York Times review which pointed to the “intricately wrought and incident steeped” compositions and “gutsy precision of the playing.” The members of Slow/Fast are each new jazz mainstays, including guitarist Nir Felder whose own debut recording as a leader was released to c ritical accolades earlier this year; the newly Chicago based trumpeter Russ Johnson, and the New York go to players: bassist Adam Armstrong and drummer Kennedy.
In addition to his work with Slow/Fast, Thomson’s recent compositional output includes
Thaw, a CD for string quartet and bass clarinet recorded with the heralded JACK Quartet.
Thaw was ranked the #1 Classical CD of 2013 by Rhapsody.com and garnered a four star review in Down Beat; the piece was also listed on NPR’s “10 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing.”

1. Settle 10:12
2. We Are Not All in This Together 09:17
3. Welding For Freedom 09:42
4. Spring 10:03
5. Bend Towards Light 09:30
6. Coda 02:03   

Ken Thomson - bass clarinet, alto saxophone, compositions
Russ Johnson - trumpet
Nir Felder - guitar
Adam Armstrong - bass
Fred Kennedy - drums

"The most important thing I look for in a musician,
 is whether he knows how to listen."
  - Duke Ellington - 


George Taylor - Rain or Shine (2014)

Observation One. George Taylor looks like the cross between a small-town pharmacist and a junior account. Observation Two. Taylor is touted as a blues musician who toured the Mississippi River Delta in search of that singular blues inspiration. It is funny that his resulting recording Rain or Shine should sound as if born of Jimmie Rodgers if he had been born and raised in the Delta Leland rather than the interior Meridian. I suspect that Taylor's experience recording the disc at shine Studios in Austin, TX are what led to the roadhouse/honky tonk flavor of Rain or Shine. No matter, this is some of the most honest and genuine country music to emerge independently in some time. 

Taylor, a multi-instrumentalist, populates this project with ten compositions so organic and tactile they are like listening to whiskey with a sandpaper texture (if one could do that). He favors over-driven harmonicas and sinewy slide instruments like dobros and lap-steel guitars recorded analog for that "warm" sound. Pieces like "Only Blue" illustrate exactly how close Jimmie Rodgers (and Hank Williams, for that matter) was stylistically to the Delta. The sheer power of "Breakin' in Boots" with its rock harmonic structure, make this music as old as the last century and as immediate as right now.

Rain or Shine is as murky and low-fi as Exile on Mainstreet (Rolling Stone, 1972) and more vital than two-thirds of the Alt-Americana being produced today. The disc's heart is conjured on "Harvest Moon," The "Ventilator Blues" of Rain or Shine. Taylor is an artist to watch closely and assimilate into a properly considered playlist.

George Taylor: guitars, harmonica, vocals
Justin Douglas: Pedal Steel, bass, Dobro, vocals
Blake Lange: percussion
Cody Ground: Keyboards
Jerry Reynolds: fiddle

01. Goodnight
02. The Hard Way
03. Railroad Song
04. What Am I Gonna Say
05. Scenery
06. Only Blue
07. Breakin’ in Boots
08. Harvest Moon
09. The Rain
10. Seat With Your Name


Greg Abate Quartet - Motif (2014)

A traveling jazz master with an international reputation as one of the top-tier saxophonist in the business today, Greg Abate and his distinguished quartet unveils a new Motif of splendid bebop sounds which, for this artist, is natural recurring theme. An expert of the bebop/post-bop sound he has performed for most of his career, Abate is recognized one of the finest proponents and interpreter of the style in the jazz world today.

An Educator as well as a renowned musician by profession, his musicianship is unquestioned as evidenced by the performance he provides here where, as a multi-instrumentalist who, through the wizardry of technology and "overdubbing," becomes his own reed section on this album performing, not only on the alto saxophone—for which he is most noted—but also on the baritone, the soprano and the flute.

The music opens up on the swinging side, the side Abate seems to be most comfortable with, burning up the title track with one steamy alto solo after another accompanied well by superb piano work from Tim Ray and various drum solos from Mark Walker. Penned for friend Buddy Boy Hawkins, "Buddy's Rendezvous" tones it down just a tad but still manages to sizzle this time featuring the saxophonist on the baritone. "Snowfall" is just as engaging featuring John Lockwood on sterling bass lines, splashing cymbals from Walker and Abate providing a torrid solo spot on the soprano.

Based on the jazz standard "It Could Happen to You," "Mrs. T" takes right off with the familiar melody that, of course, evolves into this burner of a tune which highlights the leader playing the baritone and the alto through the magic of overdubbing. One of the terrific originals of the date has to be the spacious "Bittersweet," featuring Abate on a magnificent alto playing a beautiful melody with a bossa nova underpinning as pianist Ray provides wonderful moments on the keys while bassist Lockwood makes his presence known.

All in not swing however as "Flashback" becomes the first warm spot of the disc and a ballad that the leader states ..." outlines my recurring thoughts of the past" and "Morning of the Leaves"—which showcases the master on the flute—a 34 bar jazz waltz, is the other mellow tune of the album. The texture of the music quickly returns for more swinging stuff beginning with the blazing "Steppin' Out," lightly-based on John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," the fast-paced "Conflict" and the last original piece of the set, "Swingin' at the Cookie," a another up tempo romp penned in memory of the saxophonists time performing at The Cookie, a jazz club in Leicester, England.

The great Phil Woods composition "Bop'n Bob Don't Stop," closes the session in the same rousing fashion as it began, pulsating with power. Motif captures an incredible session of swing from Greg Abate and crew who articulate the sounds of bebop with a masterful performance in a masterpiece of an album for the ages, quite impressive.

Greg Abate: alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute
Tim Ray: piano
John Lockwood: bass
Mark Walker: drums

01. Motif
02. Buddy's Rendezvous
03. Snowfall
04. Mrs.T
05. Bittersweet
06. Flashback
07. Steppin' Out
08. Morning of the Leaves
09. Conflict
10. Swingin' at the Cookie
11. Bop'n Bob Don't Stop