Ron Bierman - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://www.jazzreview.com Mon, 22 May 2017 14:47:06 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Bridges by Tin / Bag http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/other-cd-reviews/bridges-by-tin-/-bag.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/other-cd-reviews/bridges-by-tin-/-bag.html Bridges by Tin / Bag
This is ethereal, contemplative music played beautifully by the unusual combination of trumpet and guitar. Kris Tiner's tone is warm and full, and unusually gentle for a young brass player. He takes the lead most of the way, but Mike Baggetta's presence is continuous. Fitting the mood of the album, the guitarist often uses long-sustain sparsely-placed notes, whether accenting Tiner's solos or soloing himself. (Classical music fans will recognize the influence of composer Morton Feldman.) "Bobo" opens with a mournful wail strongly reminiscent of Miles' Sketches of Spain. The entire track may remind you of that album, but it's quieter…

This is ethereal, contemplative music played beautifully by the unusual combination of trumpet and guitar. Kris Tiner's tone is warm and full, and unusually gentle for a young brass player. He takes the lead most of the way, but Mike Baggetta's presence is continuous. Fitting the mood of the album, the guitarist often uses long-sustain sparsely-placed notes, whether accenting Tiner's solos or soloing himself. (Classical music fans will recognize the influence of composer Morton Feldman.)

"Bobo" opens with a mournful wail strongly reminiscent of Miles' Sketches of Spain. The entire track may remind you of that album, but it's quieter and played with rhythmic freedom rather than a steady pulse. Through much of the piece, Baggetta picks a simple bass-line. During his own solo, notes above that bass line come at a leisurely one every four seconds or so. The effect is mesmerizing. It's rare to hear young musicians who know how to grab listeners without wild flurries of speed or in-your-face dynamics.

All the tunes are Tiner originals and all are filled with moments of delicately exquisite beauty. "Osho" features restrained trumpet calls and quiet trills that demonstrate Tiner's exceptional control and ear for colors.

Baggetta is first to state the melody on "Bridges" which begins with one of the longest guitar solos on the album. Tiner joins on muted trumpet, improvising over guitar before he closes out by restating the easily followed main theme.

"Just Like a Woman" is a blues number and as close as the duo comes to conventional. Subdued and thoughtful, like everything else here, it's a warm and satisfying way to conclude.

Though I believe this album is one of the year's best and highly rewarding, it's not for everyone. The mood varies little from one track to the next. Every tempo is slow and often irregular, and the dynamic range is limited. (Also note that total timing is stingy at just over 40 minutes.)

But every track is marvelous, a colorful tonal-portrait without a wasted note. Highly recommended.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Ron Bierman) Other - CD Reviews Sat, 03 Dec 2011 00:27:39 -0600
Right Way Down by Ethan Winogrand Trio http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/right-way-down-by-ethan-winogrand-trio.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/right-way-down-by-ethan-winogrand-trio.html Right Way Down by Ethan Winogrand Trio
Piano dominates most piano trios. (Maybe that's why they don't call it a drum or bass trio, eh?) Thing is, this group is just called "a trio." Although the piano does carry most of the melody line, the blend and sound levels make the three instruments as much equals as in any trio I've heard. It's like a single complex instrument that demands, and deserves, attention to all three musical strands. Leader Ethan Winogrand, has covered a lot of territory, both musical and geographic. In his teens he was a rock drummer. He came to jazz via the fusion group…

Piano dominates most piano trios. (Maybe that's why they don't call it a drum or bass trio, eh?) Thing is, this group is just called "a trio." Although the piano does carry most of the melody line, the blend and sound levels make the three instruments as much equals as in any trio I've heard. It's like a single complex instrument that demands, and deserves, attention to all three musical strands.

Leader Ethan Winogrand, has covered a lot of territory, both musical and geographic. In his teens he was a rock drummer. He came to jazz via the fusion group High Tide. His trio here is mainstream.

Born in New York City, Winogrand toured the Northeast early in his professional career and later Europe for eight years. Then it was back to New York for recordings and club dates with many jazz artists including Carla Bley in her Very Big Band. (Though Winogrand isn't on it, if you like big bands don't miss her album Appearing Nightly.) Now the drummer lives with his wife near her hometown in Spain, which explains the other musicians on this release, and the sometimes Spanish vibe.

"Coming on Strong" has a gritty shuffle beat. After stating the melody, De Miguel picks out a solo, much of it with an almost Basie-like economy. The left hand supports with staccato chords that are as much rhythmic as harmonic. The bass at first goes its own melodic way, and then switches to steady walking until its own brief solo, mostly in the higher register. Winogrand uses sticks and keeps relentless time on a cymbal all the way, accenting with snare and bass drums.

He switches to brushes for the sensuous and mildly mysterious "Good 'n Ripe." The tune and De Miguel's solo have an Iberian tinge. Piano and bass together take the melody in a wonderful tandem. A piano solo follows. Bass and piano return to the melody before supporting a few bars on snare to take it home.

Winogrand plays with more restraint than many of today's jazz drummers. His time is clean and persistent. Cymbal, snare and bass accents fit and encourage rather than hog attention. The tunes are by Winogrand except for "Pee Wee" by drummer Tony Williams. Showing their percussionist origins, they are about rhythms and rhythmic accents as much as melody and pianist Jacobo De Miguel plays them that way. Even soloing he often sounds more like part of an accompanying rhythm section than the lead.

The album never startles or flies off into spasms of creativity. But it is deeply satisfying and rewards close listening. The tunes are near hypnotic thanks to Winogrand's rhythmic intensity and the flawless interplay of piano, bass and drums. Highly recommended.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Ron Bierman) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Sun, 20 Nov 2011 01:24:22 -0600
Sweet by Barbara Jean http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/sweet-by-barbara-jean.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/sweet-by-barbara-jean.html Sweet by Barbara Jean
Barbara Jean started her professional music career as a country-rock bass player, and she used to kick "butt six nights a week in Phoenix trucker bars." Now in Buffalo, she has morphed into a song writer and singer in a style popular over 50 years ago; she cites "the tradition of Cole Porter and the Gershwins." Jean has a decent voice, a good ear, and an easy style with jazzy phrasing. Unfortunately, not all goes well with her first album. Sweet lives up to its name–too much so for most jazz fans. A few jolts inspired by that butt-kicking past…

Barbara Jean started her professional music career as a country-rock bass player, and she used to kick "butt six nights a week in Phoenix trucker bars." Now in Buffalo, she has morphed into a song writer and singer in a style popular over 50 years ago; she cites "the tradition of Cole Porter and the Gershwins." Jean has a decent voice, a good ear, and an easy style with jazzy phrasing. Unfortunately, not all goes well with her first album. Sweet lives up to its name–too much so for most jazz fans. A few jolts inspired by that butt-kicking past would have improved the session and her song writing.

There are positives. Almost all the tunes are originals in the style of the Great American Song Book. I can imagine a few of them sung by Ray Eberle with the Glen Miller band or Barbara Jean herself as the "girl" singer with Jimmy Dorsey. The sensual "Rhythm of Love" is especially strong.

And a few lyrics are unusual and clever, "As we finished our fries, I saw love in your eyes." But these are scattered among lines hipper 1940s band-leaders would have choked on–"My love is true and here to stay." And "I dream of a dream so nice."!?

The quartet accompanying on all but one track sounds professional and is smoothly in the style.

Yet, despite the positives, there's an amateurish feel to the session, right down to a slightly out-of-tune piano. Too many melodies, changes and lyrics are clichés. And a few choices are just embarrassing, including an attempt to swing through "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," and a bit of scatting on "What This Is." Might work with a well-oiled café crowd, but not on a recording.

Catch her show in Buffalo; pass on the CD. For an updated version of Swing Era romance, try Harry Connick, Jr.

 

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Ron Bierman) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Wed, 02 Nov 2011 17:14:02 -0500
Sounds of Brazil http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/brazilian-jazz-brazilian-pop-jazz-cd-reviews/sounds-of-brazil.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/brazilian-jazz-brazilian-pop-jazz-cd-reviews/sounds-of-brazil.html Sounds of Brazil
Brilliant Brazilian jazz!

What's a Russian bass player doing making an album called Sounds of Brazil? Is it just another example of a shrinking musical world, or is Moscow the new Rio? Well, leader Ark Ovrutski says Russian links with Brazil go back two centuries to "Russian urban romantic songs" that were similar melodically to Portuguese songs which are the ancestors of samba and bossa nova. I'll have to take his word for that because googling "Russian urban romantic songs" nets fewer than a dozen hits, all quoting Ovrutski.

However tenuous the link between Russian music and samba, this is an enjoyable, and idiomatic outing. The "enjoyable" part is ensured by Ovrutski and his supporting cast. The two reedmen grab most of the solo time and use it well. Craig Handy is in especially good form on flute and a variety of saxes. Though he wails with a frenetic edge on "Mr. Hindemith" and the opening "2nd Line/Partido Alto," he seems to have mellowed a bit, and shines melodically on the session's ballads--this despite his recent leadership of the anything but mellow Mingus Dynasty band.

The "idiomatic" part is nailed by Duduka Da Fonesca, Jorge Continentino, and Helio Alves, all born and raised in Brazil. Da Fonesca has led numerous New York-based Brazilian groups, and no less an icon than Antonio Carlos Jobim has said, "I love the way he plays." Me too.

All the tunes were written by Ovrutski. They owe more to mainstream jazz than South America, but that's fine. The styles, after a half century of cross-breeding, are synergistic. Samba adds exotic spice to jazz; jazz intensifies samba's already loose swinging vibe. This release is one of the best examples of how successful the merger can be.

"2nd Line/Partido Alto" sets the tone. Ovrutski's firm hand plucks a samba rhythm and percussion layers the feel before the reed duo runs through the bouncy melody. Handy's superb alto solo is all New York, even as the rhythm section remains in South America. Continentino, on tenor, follows Handy's jazzy lead before the two rejoin as the melody returns.

SOB features Continentino on flute as the feel switches to the lighter, happier sound of many of today's Brazilian and Afro-Cuban-influenced small groups. (The Caribbean Jazz Project comes to mind.) Handy too keeps the lighter touch while again impressing on alto. The vibe softens even further as two flutes float together on the gentle "Song for My Mom."

Da Fonesca's jazz chops are on display during his first solo amidst the complex rhythms of "Mr. Hindemith." Alves too impresses with a jazz solo that never loses its Latin appeal.

The session has a wonderful variety of moods and colors. Typical is the unusual pairing of soprano and baritone saxes on the two takes of "Brazilian Carnival."

The CD runs less than 48 minutes. There should have been a couple more tracks, but this is brilliant Brazilian jazz played by exceptional musicians. Highly recommended.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Ron Bierman) Brazilian Jazz / Brazilian Pop Jazz - CD Reviews Tue, 01 Nov 2011 18:34:57 -0500
Sacred Ground by the International Troubadours http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/various-jazz-styles-cd-reviews/sacred-ground-by-the-international-troubadours.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/various-jazz-styles-cd-reviews/sacred-ground-by-the-international-troubadours.html Sacred Ground by the International Troubadours
Hendrix meets Bill Frisell and the Dalai Lama

A strange mix—the electric guitar rides from smooth jazz to Hendrix while virtuoso bass and percussion are active, sympathetic supporters, whether the vibe is Congo-primitive, New Age, mainstream jazz or rock. The Italian-based International Troubadours take Bill Frissel's eclectic lead, but what he puts into separate focused albums they here compress into one bold attempt to update the music of the original troubadours and their mystic, pagan predecessors.

It might have worked if they hadn't gone totally over the top with vocalise on almost all unlucky 13 tracks. The amateurish imitation of mystical chant is more likely to produce laughter than the deep thought that precedes Enlightment. Vocal nonsense reaches its height on "Salutati" as near screams try to match an amped-up wailing rock guitar, in imitation of the ecstatic wails of a pagan worshipper. Few listeners will become believers in either the object of devotion or this band.

Too bad because, aside from inane vocalizations, there's some effective trio playing; the group is comfortable with rock and jazz. "Col di Lana" includes both and is the best of these all-original tunes. After a mysteriously moody opening, guitarist Alberto N. A. Turra picks out a Spanish-tinged melody and then does most of the solo heavy-lifting as Spanish morphs into gently swinging jazz. Tension increases and his tone becomes more aggressive until it reaches a rock fuzz-guitar climax. Bass and percussion provide right-on support through the progression of vibes here, and throughout the session.

Longer tracks alternate with brief entr'actes, primarily for percussion from bass drum to triangle. These pieces, all under two minutes, are accented with a few light electronic touches and, thankfully, even fewer vocal agonies.

The idea may have been a good one, but the execution isn't. Recommended only if your karaoke machine can delete the voices. (Note: the CD comes in at less than a skimpy 50-minutes, but that's not always a bad thing.)

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Ron Bierman) Various Jazz Styles - CD Reviews Mon, 19 Sep 2011 14:30:02 -0500
Gunsmoke http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/progressive-cd-reviews/gunsmoke.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/progressive-cd-reviews/gunsmoke.html WOW!

It happens more often lately that I have a "WOW" reaction to a release by someone I've never heard before. The unknowns come in two sizes--a young player trained by one of the increasing number of terrific jazz schools, or a veteran musician who doesn't tour and has seldom been recorded as a soloist. Marty Krystall fits the latter category. He was born in 1951, invites comparisons to the best tenors in jazz, and this is the first I've heard of him? Yup.

He's spent most of his career in LA, which probably has the most undiscovered wows of any city. They make a comfortable living as studio musicians, backing popular artists or making film and TV soundtracks. Actually, I have heard Marty Krystall. I just didn't know it. His hundreds of movie credits include X-Men, Forest Gump and The Mummy Returns.

On this release he plays tenor and, most unusually since it's even touchier than the notoriously cranky soprano clarinet, a bass clarinet. Krystall's tenor tone is strong and clear, with a touch of sweetness and a vibrato that are more typical of an alto. His clarinet tone is aggressively masculine. His technique is clean and rhythmically sure at any speed on either instrument. The less-cantankerous tenor is his choice on seven of ten tracks.

The "Theme from Gunsmoke" gets things off to a Western-tinged start. There's humor in the selection and playing, but the trio swings with an intense, hard edge reinforced by the austere vibe of the pianoless combination. Sinclair Lott adds texture and color rather than just keeping time. J.P. Maramba provides a solid harmonic foundation, has a brief solo, and then a more visible role on "We've Heard It All Before," his own tune. Its catchy melody goes to the clarinet closely shadowed by bowed, then plucked bass. Both Krystall and Lott solo over walking base which then strides alone for a moment before the melody returns. The comfortable medium tempo is appropriate to the song's title.

"Ben Addiction" by Ben Webster begins with a tribute to that Swing-Era master and stays there most of the way, but Krystall updates the tune with post-bop touches throughout.

Jaki Byard's quirky "Mrs. Parker of KC" gets a treatment reminiscent of the bass-clarinet surprise leaps and harmonic substitutions of Eric Dolphy. And if you knew how I feel about Dolphy, you'd know what a compliment that is. Krystall gains further status in my eyes by including Monk's "Ask Me Now." His tenor sounds like it's making playful love to the tune.

If you've only heard Mr. Krystall in "Return of the Mummy" and "Forest Gump," you really need to get this album. Highly recommended.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Ron Bierman) Progressive - CD Reviews Fri, 19 Aug 2011 18:20:56 -0500
Three Equals One http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/three-equals-one.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/three-equals-one.html Three Equals One
At fgitst, this sounds like John Moulder's session. He carries the melody and rides the slalom-like harmonic changes with unusual sureness and grace. But no, Larry Gray's the leader, wrote the tunes, skis the drifts with equal assurance, and has his fair shar of solo time. Charles Heath completes the trio with the assertive, yet supportive style of many of today's best drummers.

At first this sounds like John Moulder's session. He carries the melody and rides the slalom-like harmonic changes with unusual sureness and grace. But no, Larry Gray's the leader, wrote the tunes, skis the drifts with equal assurance, and has his fair share of solo time. Charles Heath completes the trio with the assertive, yet supportive style of many of today's best drummers.

Gray's writing has originality and depth. The surfaces appeal immediately, but there's a lot going on underneath, so the album gets better with each listen. "King Vita-man" is a burner with a shorter than usual melodic structure and unusual key changes. It begins as a standard guitar-trio arrangement while Moulder solos. (Pat Metheny comes to mind.) The meaning of the album's title becomes more apparent when it's Gray's turn. He's in the spotlight, but supported by well-placed guitar chords and subtle drumming. I've seldom heard a trio working together any better.

The gentle "Waltz for Lena" (Gray's wife) is in a minor key. After a soft drum-roll intro, Moulder again states the melody, and this time Gray solos first. Heath remains active, but with a light touch, even though he's still using sticks rather than brushes.

Brushes are evident in "Be-bop Blues (for Barry Harris)," and as you'd guess from the title, it's a nod to the influential pianist's style. A loose, bluesy time is had by all.

"Karolyn" is another pretty tune dedicated to Gray's wife (nicknamed Lena). "Soffi's Lullaby," written for the couple's daughter, completes the triad of family-influenced ballads. To reinforce the mood, Moulder goes acoustic with a lovely harp-like tone, and Gray switches to bow for an extended heart-felt solo.

"Triceratops" is the only in-your-face track. It provides a good workout for Heath, and again Gray's tone changes, this time to match a harsh, primitive vibe. You can almost see the chunky dinosaur tromping through the primeval landscape.

This is a solid album by three musicians with extensive and broad resumes, and they've indeed been together long enough to make "three equal one." Admiringly recommended.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Ron Bierman) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 17 Aug 2011 18:24:16 -0500
Hand Luggage Only by Excess Luggage http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/hand-luggage-only-by-excess-luggage.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/hand-luggage-only-by-excess-luggage.html Hand Luggage Only by Excess Luggage
The prospects weren't promising—a rare combo mix, mostly original tunes, relatively unknown musicians, and a Scandinavian recording label. Shudder. The last group of young Northern Europeans I'd heard had me torn between boredom and suicide. Surprise! The trio sound works, the originals are strong, the musicians are first class, and the audio quality is just fine.

The prospects weren't promising—a rare combo mix, mostly original tunes, relatively unknown musicians, and a Scandinavian recording label. Shudder. The last group of young Northern Europeans I'd heard had me torn between boredom and suicide. Surprise! The trio sound works, the originals are strong, the musicians are first class, and the audio quality is just fine. Most jazz trios use a piano for melody, drums for rhythm, and bass for harmonic support. You'd think the bass would be missed and two keyboards would get in each other's way. Excess Luggage proves it ain't necessarily so. (Though the challenge of carting these axes around gives the band its name.) When the Hammond B3 plunks a bass line, the group could be mistaken for a standard trio. When it has the lead, we hear an organ trio with piano fills. It all works so well, you'd have to guess these guys have thought through how to avoid trouble. And so they have. They've been touring since 2008 and this is their second album. "Annoying You" has the session off to a swinging start. Though up-tempo, it has a romantically exotic vibe. The organ takes the melody while drums chug persistently and the piano chords. Then the piano solos over bass-like B3 and still driving percussion. The title reflects a repetitious melodic line that builds tension, finally resolved in the reprise by a clever stumbling anticlimax. "Jimmy's Thai Kitchen" is an easy lope. Solos here and throughout the release are fluent, rhythmically varied and solidly mainstream. "Corrupted Mirror" is the only cut that doesn't swing conventionally. I couldn't even decipher the time signature, but I don't feel too bad because the publicity release says the band members couldn't either. The piece is more for listening than toe tapping. The gentle lilting waltz "After All" returns the group to unsurprising rhythms. The burner "Fast Swing" follows and proves these pros rarely skipped out for soccer when they were supposed to be practicing technique. I like hearing what a group does with at least one standard, and "If I Should Lose You" accommodates. Both keyboards have a say in the melody before Steinar Nickelsen solos. When Vigleik Storaas swings into the spotlight, Nickelsen moves to perfect support with a combination of walking bass and full chords. This combination of instruments should be heard more often--and so should Excess Luggage. It's an exciting and satisfying release.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Ron Bierman) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Fri, 05 Aug 2011 19:06:31 -0500
High Society by Peter Evans and Nate Wooley Duo http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/progressive-cd-reviews/high-society-by-peter-evans-and-nate-wooley-duo.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/progressive-cd-reviews/high-society-by-peter-evans-and-nate-wooley-duo.html High Society by Peter Evans and Nate Wooley Duo
Electronic whiiiiiiiine! Clatter! Softer whiiine. Clopping of an uncoordinated, seven-legged pony. Screeech! Scrunch. Electronic drone. Yada, yada, yada. If that's your idea of either fun or how to extend the possibilities of trumpet playing, you'll love this album. Otherwise, for all but the most open minded-- or gullible-- this is noise. If you doubt my judgement, visit the Carrier Records site. It says, "We believe in noise."

Electronic whiiiiiiiine! Clatter! Softer whiiine. Clopping of an uncoordinated, seven-legged pony. Screeech! Scrunch. Electronic drone. Yada, yada, yada. If that's your idea of either fun or how to extend the possibilities of trumpet playing, you'll love this album. Otherwise, for all but the most open minded-- or gullible-- this is noise. If you doubt my judgement, visit the Carrier Records site. It says, "We believe in noise."

The publicity release claims this noise is produced by two trumpet players. It's unlikely you'd guess that until track five when the first semi-traditional brass sound appears, a wah-wah trumpet that gradually wah wahs faster and with greater electronic distortion. Throughout the album the trumpet sounds initiated by the players are subjected to electronic tortures that cause them to buzz, thump, whine, hum and pulse. This is done with feedback from guitar amps. The result is that of a poorly-played electronic synthesizer. The perhaps intended effects, given an album cover of sprawled dead animals, are variously annoying, depressing or excruciating.

Trumpeters Peter Evans and Nate Wooley have exceptional and always adventurous chops, and in the past have shown that they know the jazz tradition. Watch them on YouTube if you doubt they can play. Are they serious here or playing a prank? This sort of session appears more often in the classical genre, and usually with serious intent. The safest statement for a critic who doesn't have a clue? "These are challenging new sounds that expand the scope of trumpet playing." That's an accurate statement, but a cop out because it isn't much of an evaluation. Add, "Other than the originators, few will find the new sounds exciting or amusing." You've nailed it.

Someone wanting to call this music could say it's a sonic Rorschach-test. "I," as it's affectionately titled, begins with a sound that could be a tea pot beginning to boil, then transitions to animals recently sawed in half, but not quite gone yet. And there's structure. The piece builds. Intensity increases. The arch structure is completed as dynamics soften and the tea pot returns.

"LXVIII" is an even more compelling story. A motorcycle approaches several sloppy, angry cows. Bees chase the cows into the motor cycle. One bovine dies peacefully as the motorcycle disappears. Hmmm. Maybe this is music.

Nah. Recommended to masochists, and those who really want to annoy spouses and neighbors. Note: my review copy had neither track listings nor badly needed explanatory notes. The same may be true of commercial copies.

 

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Ron Bierman) Progressive - CD Reviews Fri, 15 Jul 2011 00:48:18 -0500
Vertical by Sandro Albert Quartet http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/brazilian-jazz-brazilian-pop-jazz-cd-reviews/vertical-by-sandro-albert-quartet.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/brazilian-jazz-brazilian-pop-jazz-cd-reviews/vertical-by-sandro-albert-quartet.html Vertical starts out with "Some Days," a light-hearted fast samba featuring fluffy flute and romantic guitar. Not a big surprise; guitarist Sandro Albert was born in Brazil and singer Milton Nascimento is a major influence. But as the session proceeds, though Albert remains in South America, he's not always on Rio's sunny beach. Turns out Heitor Villa Lobos was another major influence, and this album owes as much to that classical composer as to Nascimento or Antonio Carlos Jobim. Track six is "O

Vertical starts out with "Some Days," a light-hearted fast samba featuring fluffy flute and romantic guitar. Not a big surprise; guitarist Sandro Albert was born in Brazil and singer Milton Nascimento is a major influence. But as the session proceeds, though Albert remains in South America, he's not always on Rio's sunny beach. Turns out Heitor Villa Lobos was another major influence, and this album owes as much to that classical composer as to Nascimento or Antonio Carlos Jobim. Track six is "Obrigado (Thank You) Villa," and Vertical is more about harmony and structure than popular Brazilian rhythms--about intellect as much as sensuality.

The musicianship is outstanding. All go along with the game plan which includes subtle lyricism, instrumental interplay, and rhythms often far removed from lilting sambas. The title track epitomizes the vibe. The chord changes challenge, the rhythm is irregular, and the arrangement relies heavily on "counterpoint," not quite in its usual sense, but in what Albert describes as the way the instruments "play off each other and weave from top to bottom." That "top to bottom" is what he means by "vertical."

(In the song dedicated to Villa Lobos, Albert does use counterpoint as more strictly defined: guitar, flute and bass have separate, complementary melodic lines.)

If all this sounds overly intellectual, it is if you're looking for "quiet nights of quiet stars, quiet chords from my guitar." (Thank you, Mr. Jobim.) Vertical instead rewards close attention and multiple listens. The melodies grow more appealing the more you hear them, and the harmonic progressions more satisfying; the amazingly delicate and precise interplay of the four instruments is apparent on first hearing. But you may never adjust to the rhythm changes that are especially noticeable in Albert's up-tempo tunes. They are the main reason the vibe is different from most Brazilian jazz albums. Statements of the melody have a start-and-stop feel rather than an even, swinging flow.

All the tunes were written by Albert. There's a good mix of tempos and moods. The full quartet has 11 tracks. The flute drops out on "My Little Girl's Lullaby," a pretty ballad, and "Take Your Pick" is a short medium-tempo piece for solo guitar.

Vertical will disappoint most Carnival goers. Musicians will dig it out of the gate. This is the thinking man's Brazil.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Ron Bierman) Brazilian Jazz / Brazilian Pop Jazz - CD Reviews Sat, 26 Mar 2011 01:00:00 -0500