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Motion by Ryan A Meisel Collective

I am, alas, old enough to have noticed that every few years (or even months), somebody in a jazz or jazz-conscious publication will pen an article asking "Is Jazz Dead?" Or, next best thing, in the letter column of such a 'zine will include a letter from a somewhat bitter, curmudgeonly life-long jazz fan who contents recent waves of jazz signal the end of Western Civ or at least the end of his/her listening to new-ish music forever. I'm sure these précis aren't new -- I'm certain the coming(s) of Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Miles Davis going electric, and maybe even Benny Goodman signaled the End of Days. Well, let this curmudgeonly critic tell you The Way It Is: It's a lotta hooey. The mainstream revolution may not be televised, but it is in good hands. How do I know this to be fact? Read on....

Motion is a self-released/indie album A Ryan Meisel Collective, a jazz combo from the chilly Midwest USA (IL & WI) made of regionally-based players. Before some of you turn your noses up re: the factoid these hepcats aren't national or "established" names (i.e., them one reads of in dB, Jazz Times, etc.) don't let it concern you. Motion is simply a better-than-fine mainstream jazz disc, a boss offering no matter where it came from. Only the "mainstream" is mos def 21st century mainstream, not of 10, 20, or 30 years back. "Mainstream" has come to mean: established styles considered part of the norm, but to newer generations of players, the avant-garde, soul-jazz, and Mother New Orleans are as much part of that continuum as the bebop, hard bop and post-bop variants thought to be the mainstream. In other words, this isn't natty-guys-in-suits re-bop -- the Meisel Collective explore/embrace that jazz tradition and make it all their own.

Proof's in the pudding (odd expression, if you think about it): The surging opener "20 Revolutions Around The Moon" establishes a tidy early/mid-60s Hancock/Tyner-type groove before the saxes spread a stealthy, blues-laden theme and dance 'round each other a bit. Meisel and Celia Whiren's tenors get a little playfully "out" (a la George Adams) here 'n' there before locking into a insistent duo-goose/push groove. "Swang-a-Thang" finds the crew tipping their collective fedoras at that "gray area" of the swing-to-bop era of Coleman Hawkins and Don Byas. Tenorist Celia Whiren shines, her deep-toned muscular horn getting in touch with her inner Dexter Gordon without being all slavish about it. This 'un also visits N'awlins with a little old-school collective theme-ology and a tasty (and concise) drum solo that really goes to Crescent Square a la Ed Blackwell. "Motion" might be a mini-tribute to Lee Konitz (Motion is considered one of LK's best discs), featuring as it does a furtive Peter Gunn/film noir-type melody with a touch of jolly skronk. "Come Back To Me" is a standard-type non-standard, Meisel's soprano rich with restless but classy swagger.

Also, think you not as this be an indie production that it lacks "production values" -- the aural quality is crisp, warm 'n' clear and the drums sound like you're literally a few feet from the bandstand.

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Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ryan A Meisel Collective
  • CD Title: Motion
  • Genre: Various Jazz Styles
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Self-released
  • Musicians: Ryan Meisel (tenor, alto, & soprano saxophones, flute, clarinet), Celia Whiren (tenor & soprano saxophones, flute), Scott Coletta (piano), Scott Luman (bass), Shirazette Tinnin (drums), Kurt Boucek (trumpet)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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