Glenn Astarita joined All About Jazz in 1997
Longtime contributor to AAJ and Downbeat, Jazz Review, EjazzNews, Radio DirectX.
The fifth recording by this quartet featuring eminent modern jazz bassist/composer William Parker is a cohesive improvisational foray, sometimes transmitting a liquefying effect. Trombonist Jeff Hoyer generally commandeers a sequence of motifs, sparked by a slightly turbulent group-based mode of attack. They do pick up momentum in spots, yet a portion of the overall fun factor upsurges within the soloists' sinuous and often wily interactions. Hoyer's muted trombone work instills a bit of pathos into the program, whereas pianist Mark Hennen and the rhythm section interconnect the dots via scurrying statements. The music is elusive, free, and consistent. Part of the success emanates from the musicians' intuitive exchanges, coupled with a distinct sense of mobility.
Here, guitarist Bill Frisell's compositions are "triggered"? by eight Gerhard Richter (abstract) paintings. Supported by a three-piece strings unit, Frisell provides sinewy treatments to weaving and multidirectional mosaics that vividly follow suit with the respective artworks. There's a bit of angst interconnected with peaks, valleys and subliminal melodies. This acoustic-electric program should warm the hearts of the artist's fan base, especially those who enjoy his more avant stylizations. Moreover, the quartet instills an abundance of soul-stirring moods augmented by flowing movements and shockwave choruses.
I Sold Gold
An interesting and multifaceted debut by this Seattle, WA unit that treads the generally opaque fringes of pop and progressive rock. With quaint themes and an overall sense of innocence, the group blends synths, heavy guitars and vocals into variable pulses and backbeats. And while the vocalists might not leave an indelible impressionthink of a deadpan slant on The Beach Boys' Brian Wilsonthe music is framed upon affecting melodic choruses. They engage in fairy tale-like themes, accelerated by a few odd-metered time signatures and artsy treatments. But more importantly, the group offers a nouveau perspective to roads frequently traveled.
John Hart Trio
Hep Jazz (2000 Series)
Guitarist John Hart and his trio lock in rather snugly for this potpourri of standards and originals. They adhere to the familiar guitar trio format, spinning a lively musical yarn via modern twists on standards, lithe funk grooves, and more. Hart intermittently steps on the pedal for dabs of pervasive, jazz-fusion fare and looms as a captivating soloist. Drummer Tim Horner and bassist Bill Moring provide sympathetic support throughout. Ultimately, Hart and his band sustain gobs of interest during this technically proficient and indisputably entertaining set.
Happy the Man
The Muse Awakens
This legendary '70s and '80s East Coast USA progressive rock group goes against the grain here. Not stylistically or compositionally, by any stretch. How often have we heard rock bands give it another shot with generally sub-par results: the steam has dissipated and the writing might seem forced. For this reunion effortfeaturing original members and new blood such as keyboardist David Rosenthal and othersthe band has returned with a forceful vengeance. I'll go out on a short limb here, stating that this new release hits the mark in a colossal way. It's asymmetrical doses of lush harmonic movements coupled with knotty time signatures, regal choruses and meaningful soloing. It's a brilliantly orchestrated program, owing to the band's signature soundnicely gussied upwith a nouveau overall vibe, offering a contemporary spin on familiar terrain. Few band of the prog-rock school are so effective at meshing tender themes with ferociously climactic arrangements. Essentially, the group exceeded even the highest of predilections and expectations. Magnificent!
The trio's latest record date proves that no other band can so distinctly meld psychedelics, roots music and pop innocence with intricate progressive rock arrangements. It all makes uncanny sense!
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