Ben Schachter & Sung/Unsung: Nothingman (2004)
With a sharp edge that cuts on the side of dynamic playing and improvisation, Nothingman is the latest release by reedist and bandleader Ben Schachter. The Philadelphia-based musician has earned a reputation as one who treads clear of tepid jazz waters in favor of progressive and free flowing ones, as attested on his recent recordings Inside, Looking Out and Missing Beloved.
Schachter's new group Sung/Unsung is appropriately titled as he joined by highly accomplished (if not widely known) musiciansbassist Matthew Parrish, drummer Craig McIver, and guitarist extraordinaire Jef Lee Johnson. What really sparkles on this recording is their tight and clearly distinct sound. Throw in some fresh written material and acute individual efforts, and the stage is set for some stellar jazz music.
Schacter plays a variety of reed instruments with a muscular and angular style. Things start jumping with the swinging, hip-bopped "Tribal Delusions" declaring his prowess with biting overdubbed tenor sax voices that snake in and out of the melody backed by a crisp drum solo by McIver. On "The Day the Happy Jazz Cried" his bright soprano taunts as Jef Lee Johnson joins in and proves why he is one of the fiercest guitarists around, with blistering arpeggio notes as the rhythm section brings the groove and closes with a deep bass solo by Parrish.
The remainder of the recording is equally remarkable, with diverse spots such as the fine tenor solo on John Coltane's "Moment Notice" and the Middle Eastern vibe of "Think, She Said," with its funky bass/drum vamp mixed with hyped guitar and Schacter playing clarinet. Swing is at the essence of the music, and it permeates the smooth "Everyone's a Genius" and the guttural "Queens Statin Blues." Things quietly shift on "New Toy," which is wrapped in rich sounds adorned with acoustic guitar, clarinet, and detailed solos.
There's not a weak selection in the set, and while the childlike cover art might spawn the question "Who's afraid of the Nothingman?", there's nothing to fear with this release that delivers sheer energy, creativity, and chops from Ben Schachter and Sung/Unsung.
Track Listing: 1. Tribal Delusions 2. The Day the Happy Jazz Cried 3. Moment's Notice 4. Think, She Said (Melancholy) 5. Suddenly Sentient 6. Everyone's a Genius 7. He So Beautiful: Emmett Wallace 8. Queens Session Blues 9. New Toy 10. Nothingman 11. Aged
Personnel: Ben Schachter - reeds; Jef Lee Johnson - guitars; Matthew Parrish - bass; Craig McIver - drums
Record Label: Ben-Jam Music
Style: Modern Jazz