Neal Caine: Backstabber's Ball (2005)
It's an odd title for a superb album. The compositions are Neal Caine's, and he leads with a powerful rhythmic stroke from behind his big double bass. Two tenors, Ned Goold and Stephen Riley, give him plenty of lyrical matter, playing it soft and whispery as Caine's quartet emphasizes straight-ahead jazz with a comfortable grasp of its traditional flavors. Jason Marsalis surrounds the session with appropriate percussive textures.
"W.M.D." provides a dramatic impression, both mysterious and exotic. Caine and Marsalis provide a suitable syncopated rhythm as tenor saxophone and alto clarinet offer different opinions of the debate. Goold lets his melodies run smooth and velvety, while Riley turns loose a stream of passion. Together, the quartet has created a sparkling gem through its diverse impressions.
"Corporate Jazz" drifts quietly as background music. The piece features Caine's solo statements, which punctuate and drive with authority. Here, he places more emphasis on power than lyricism, however, and relinquishes most of the melodic duties to his saxophonists. "Conversation for Two," conversely, opens with Caine's melodic bass statements communicating a subtle message. The piece places both tenors in mellow rhythmic and harmonic surroundings, where they are free to call and respond with a quiet charm. Both tenors emit a husky tone quality, filled with airy emotion and purring ever so lightly in reflective repose.
"Crescent City Reflections" drives right to the heart of the matter. Caine and his musical partners have grown up on tradition. It's in their blood. Walking bass, ride cymbal, and two creative horn improvisers remind us all that jazz continues to hold its own in the face of many societal diversions.
"Backstabber's Ball" opens with bowed bass and continues with intensity, as the quartet summarizes its feelings slowly with great care. Like a Crescent City funeral procession, the small band oozes with passion, comes to a juncture, and then releases with an up-tempo drive back home. Caine's musical celebration adheres to tradition while pumping fresh new blood into the veins of a veteran musical form.
Track Listing: D.E.A.; Good Goooold; W.M.D.; Late Night Living; Corporate Jazz; Conversation for Two; Crescent City Reflections; Clare Evermore; The Hempire Strikes Back; Backstabber's Ball.
Personnel: Neal Caine: bass; Ned Goold: tenor saxophone; Stephen Riley: tenor saxophone, alto clarinet; Jason Marsalis: drums.