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Jon Notar: One Year (2007)

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Jon Notar: One Year How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The jazz world is just brimming with talent, spread over all instruments and genres, and where it pops up and becomes noticed is completely unpredictable. Like many others before him, the young pianist and composer Jon Notar has had to pay his dues (and the rent) by playing where he can, making connections and working to gain recognition.

If One Year is any indication, Notar ought to become well-known, at least in jazz circles. Listing as his influences pianists ranging from Fats Waller to Barry Harris to Craig Taborn and Marc Copland, Notar has developed his own style of playing, but especially composing.

About his musical journey in general and One Year in particular, Notar writes that he wants "to intrigue my audience and take them beyond the materialistic confines of notes and chords, structure and technique. I want you to feel my music because in a way these compositions are a microcosm of my life experience, one small example of my constant pursuit of an unobtainable goal."

Notar's music is completely accessible in that his melodic, harmonic and rhythmic building blocks are recognizable and thus understandable as things unfold. However, Notar does not write mere melodies, but rather musical landscapes or miniature musical stories. The arrangements are full of drama that is planned, with all of the pieces working together to create a scene that can be clearly seen in the mind.

Thus, his compositions are full of craft in that they simultaneously provide enough structure to satisfy the ear quickly while never being predictable and reverting to patterns. This mark of maturity would be shocking if it did not sound so natural—everything unfolds as it should and must, hence the trip is reassuring, never allowing the mysteries of musical emotion to become simplistic.

Emotionally, Notar embraces a benevolent universe, and his joy at being able to do that which he loves comes through without ever becoming cloying. The mystery of the creative impulse that runs through him, and which he wants to share with the listener, is a real part of his music and is audible. This positive undertone is also apparent in "Not Even The Rain" from Alone Together (Pirouet, 2008), which is credited to Notar and pianist Marc Copland.

The tracks are almost evenly split between a trio of Notar, outstanding bassist Greg Chudzik and drummer Josh Giunta, along with a quintet featuring tenor saxophonist Kyle Wilson and trumpeter Takuya Kuroda. While the quintet tracks are naturally longer and more complex, each one contains nuggets of surprise.

Notar is reminiscent of a young David Braid in temperament, talent and long-range staying power. The fine One Year ought to be the first of many recordings from this impressive composer and player.

Track Listing: Seriously; Snow Angel; Brooklyn; Entitled; Underworld; One Year; Haywire; What Is This?; To Wake Alone; Pleasure Without Pain.

Personnel: Jon Notar: piano; Greg Chudzik: bass; Josh Giunta: drums; Kyle Wilson: tenor saxophone (2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10); Takuya Kuroda: trumpet (2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10).

Record Label: Self Produced

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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