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Good Night Songs by John Tchicai Charlie Kohlase and Garrison Fewell

Good Night Songs is a recording of this unusual trio’s performance at the end of their 2003 tour at the Unitarian Meeting House in Amherst, MA. The combination of two reeds and guitar actually works fairly well; with no bass or cymbals to fill out the sound it creates a rather dreamy quality that is a lot gentler than other free jazz groups. This quality can also be attributed in large part to Garrison Fewell’s guitar playing. The instrument was used in bass functions, or as a third voicing, as a chord provider as well as a percussionist at times. While this helps to establish the mood of the music, Charlie Kohlase and John Tchicai play very melodically. Both arranged and improvised sections are very modal and layered with different rhythms. The melodies are all well thought-out arrangements as well. Perhaps one of the more arranged songs on the album, "Thriftshopping", which uses baritone and tenor saxes in addition to guitar, is one of the most rewarding.

While all of the songs on the album are original compositions, each one has a very different groove. There is a lot of free material here, but it shows just as much compositional thought as the arranged heads. The addition of vocals to some songs, such as "Ramana Maharshi", adds to the overall effect as well, especially since it is used in a form of call-and-response in concert with the guitar and saxophone. Most of the album is fairly upbeat, but without being excessively percussive. The few songs that are more morose are beautifully done with attention to tone quality and chordal arrangement. Overall, this album is worth listening to for ideas on how to arrange with sparse instrumentation and still get the same power of sound one would achieve with a fuller ensemble. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but the work was done well and the result is an album you’ll probably listen to more than once.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: John Tchicai Charlie Kohlase and Garrison Fewell
  • CD Title: Good Night Songs
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Boxholder Records
  • Tracks: Floating, The Queen of Ra, Thriftshopping, Undercurrent, Ramana Maharshi, On Fait La Taille, X-Ray Vision, Start To Finish, Llanto Del Indio, Consolation Cake
  • Musicians: John Tchicai (tenor sax, bass clarinet, voice, percussion), Charlie Kohlase (alto, tenor, and baritone saxes), Garrison Fewell (guitar, chopsticks, slide, percussion)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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