Gary Sisco, who writes the liner notes for Brett Sroka’s first CD, Hearsay,
makes two good points: (1) that the 1990’s and the new millenium are fertile times for the reinvention of jazz and (2) that jazz education has produced positive results that have advanced the art form. Of course, this is contrary to the conventional wisdom about both topics. The occasion for Sisco’s observations is the success of the ensemble playing on Hearsay,
which Sroka leads as a trombonist but which involves much more than trombone-playing. It involves, yes, Sroka’s leadership. But also it involves a group of musicians who understand one another and who understand the intentions of Sroka’s compositions.
The first track, "Hearsay," consists merely and ingeniously of the descending notes of an octave in a canon, all of the other horns following Sroka’s trombone’s fall until the chorus of notes forms an sonic fullness of a wide timbral range. Interspersing the same falling octave throughout the tune as recurring motive, the members of Sroka’s group rotate solos, improvising on the suggestions implicit in the pattern.
The next tune, "Happy-Go-Lucky-Ism," is based upon the changes of "Straight, No Chaser," with Sroka’s accents and alternations thrown in for punch and cohesiveness. And then "Tabula Rasa" emerges from Sroka’s long tones behind trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s (not to be confused with the bassist) dramatic melody, building up to mid-tune climaxes only to ebb into softness again before drummer Eric Harland’s extended and thrilling malleted solo. Even "Undecided," the only tune not written by Sroka, remains decidedly unconventional, starting with Sroka’s call to attention on the trombone before he kicks off the tune in a loose and relaxed manner, only to be followed by a double-time section marked by Cohen’s flowing solo.
The point of Hearsay,
though, is the realization of Sroka’s vision for creating scenes suggestive of various human emotions and experiences through music. And through the professionalism of equally educated and promising artists who share Sroka’s vision and can help him bring it to life.