Combining heartwarming ballads with up-tempo romps, Mark Isbell offers a pleasant, acoustic jazz setting where the listener can find the kinds of swing and syncopation that have given jazz its identity. "Jazz Influence” is among them. This soaring samba by Carlos Lyra affords a close-up look at the alto saxophonist’s light melodic approach and natural ease with rhythm. He’s “singing” through his instrument in a vocal manner, capturing all the nuances. The music flows. Solo improvisations by pianist, guitarist and drummer enhance the saxophonist’s performance, both through contrast and through resemblance. Isbell’s sound is all his own; and, it’s a beautiful tone. By comparison, the piano’s tone quality appears harsh on this release.
“Portrait of Jenny,” a personal favorite, and Blossom Dearie’s loping waltz “Sweet Georgie Fame” create goosebumps through their meaningful dialogue. Isbell and his all-star crew “speak” with a natural, conversational style. They’ve brought back the meaning through this program of chestnuts. Michel Petrucciani’s “Chloe Meets Gershwin” gives the band something different to work with. Emphasizing the syncopation of early jazz scores, the piece seems to shout “I Got Rhythm” with a modern appeal. Recommended, Jazz Influence offers a timeless portrait of the music’s history along with a close-up portrait of this superlative alto saxophonist.
Audio samples from four of the tracks can be found at www.markisbell.com.
Personnel: Mark Isbell- alto saxophone; Peter Sprague- guitar; Mike Wofford- piano; Bob
Magnusson- bass; John Guerin- drums.