Monday, April 11, 2016

Greg Fishman - New Journey (2016)

Label: Self Produced
Source: Cdbaby

Greg Fishman has been a dynamic tenor-saxophonist on the jazz scene for the past twenty-five years. His bright and appealing tone, his ability to sound equally at home with up-tempo bop romps and Brazilian-oriented music, and his steady stream of creative ideas have made him a major force in both the Chicago and international jazz scenes. His collaborations with his wife, pianist-singer Judy Roberts, guitarist-singer Paulinho Garcia in their duo, known as Two For Brazil, the late pianist Eddie Higgins (on their duet album Indian Summer) and as the leader of his own quartets display his talents as a multifaceted improviser with melodic beauty in everything he plays.

Throughout his career he has focused on straight-ahead jazz and Brazilian music, performing everywhere from the NorthSea and Monterey Jazz Festivals to concerts and clubs in SE Asia. He can always be relied upon to uplift any bandstand with his enthusiastic playing and inventive ideas. Greg is also well-known for his work in jazz education as a teacher, and as owner of Greg Fishman Jazz Studios, which has published more than twenty highly acclaimed books focusing on jazz saxophone, music theory, and improvisation.

New Journey is arguably Greg Fishman’s finest recording to date, featuring performances of seven originals with a top-notch quartet. “Most of these tunes were written when I was on concert tours of Bangkok, Singapore and Japan. The music is mostly straight-ahead but with some unusual chord changes and twists.”

On New Journey, Fishman teams up with his regular Chicago rhythm section. He is rightfully enthusiastic about their abilities. “Dennis Luxion is a lyrical player with a sensitive touch, beautiful voicings and comping that is really interactive. Eric Hochberg sets the groove, and creates what I call a “long arc” on the bass-- melodic lines that frequently stretch over an entire phrase. Phil Gratteau is a fantastic drummer who is very knowledgeable in a lot of styles, always stretching the music and making it sound personal, always playing in the moment."

The program begins with a perfect opener, “Champagne Jane.” The uptempo swinger has a catchy and singable melody, some cooking tenor, a piano solo by Luxion that keeps the momentum flowing, and a brief trade of fours with drummer Gratteau. One could imagine Dexter Gordon or Richie Cole having fun on this tune, a song that could very well catch on as a standard in the future.

“Dahlia” is a hard bop piece with a Latin feel that would have fit in well on a Blue Note album of the mid-1960s. While there are hints of Joe Henderson and Stanley Turrentine in spots, Fishman plays throughout in his own distinctive style.

The atmospheric piece “Floating Down” has an unusual chord progression (major seventh chords descending in whole steps) and a melody that gives one the impression of a consistently downward motion. The tricky jazz waltz includes a counter-melody played by bassist Hochberg that answers the ideas of Fishman.

A downward harmonic pattern is also used as part of “New Journey,” although primarily as an introduction and transition between soloists. It also acts as an exciting coda to the tune. The medium tempo straight-ahead original finds Fishman’s tenor flying effortlessly over the complex harmonies.

“Boppertunity,” like Charlie Parker’s “Little Willie Leaps,” outfits the chord changes of “All God’s Children Got Rhythm” with a new and fresh melody. Greg Fishman takes a hot boppish solo and both Dennis Luxion and Phil Gratteau get to stretch out on this stimulating performance.

“The Ninth Degree,” a modern Brazilian-flavored tune, has Fishman nodding in Stan Getz’s direction but in his own distinctive voice, caressing the piece and playing with a great deal of warmth.

The final selection, “Constellations,” opens with shimmering bursts of cymbals, and with the saxophone exploring the harmony in a series of short cadenzas before launching into a straight-ahead swing tune with a harmonic approach worthy of John Coltrane during his Atlantic years (circa 1960).

With this album, Greg Fishman and his quartet have created a truly memorable recording, with each musician exploring and discovering musical treasures that will invite the listener to come along on this New Journey.

Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including Bop, The Jazz Singers and Jazz On Record 1917-76

1. Champagne Jane
2. Dahlia
3. Floating Down
4. New Journey
5. Boppertunity
6. The Ninth Degree
7. Constellations

Greg Fishman - Saxophone
Dennis Luxion - Piano
Eric Hochberg - Double Bass
Phil Gratteau - drums