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Second Introduction by Ben Markley

Swingin'! The second album from pianist Markley (get it? Second Intro?) has a playful forward propulsion that is impossible to deny. Go ahead. Try it. Did you succeed in denying the swing? No, you didn't. So there! From Markley's lighthearted charts to the solid base provided by Evan Gregor and Jordan Perlson to the stellar, aggressively played soloing by the front line (especially Maria Schneider alum Gisbert on trumpet), this is modern mainstream jazz at its most infectious. Never met the guy, but I bet Markley has a good sense of humor and is fun to talk to.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about the darkness of a player like Mehldau or the somber tones of ECM discs. I groove hard to out jazz and find it hard to appreciate people that sit too much in the pocket. But Markley's quintet is nothing if not in the pocket. You'll find interesting, yet pretty straight up harmonic structures, nary a multiphonic from Jim Pisano's tenor, and only the occasional really surprising chordal juxtaposition in the leader's own playing. Yet there's magic here! Perlson really lights a fire on "Dry," Gisbert is stunning on... well, on every track. It's like those classic Blue Note sides (not that it particularly has a Blue Note vibe) where everyone just plays their asses off. It's a communal sort of thing.

Or maybe it's the focus on major keys and upbeat tempos. Heck, it's all of that. Even the ballad "But Beautiful" (the only standard on the disc) doesn't veer into melancholy, steering instead towards the kind of gentle sun that someone like Red Garland used to supply. This would far and away be a good band to see play live. Forget prozac, we've got Ben Markley!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ben Markley
  • CD Title: Second Introduction
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: OA2
  • Rating: Five Stars
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