Matt Belzer: Connections (2005)
Matt Belzer boasts an impressive professional resume: Director of Homewood Jazz Ensembles at John Hopkins University; Jazz Department Chair at the Peabody Prepatory; and teacher of jazz courses at the University of Maryland. But a visit to the artist's web site reveals a nugget of his genetic resume: his second cousin, Dick Richards, played drums for the original Bill Haley and the Comets. Really! (says Belzer). That's fascinating for me, in a "degree of separation" mode... my very first musical memory comes from 1956: Bill Haley and the Comets' "See You Later Alligator" rocking out of a radio. I loved that happy-go-lucky beat, the flowing rhythm punctuated by sharp, tinny drumming.
That's an interesting connection, but this music is a completely different animal. After the engaging groove of "Deep Focus," the sound goes more abstract with "The Ember Waltz," the slightly jagged "Misfit the Second," and thengoing in a direction of freedom"No Blue on Mars (It's All Red)," featuring some darkly luminous alto flute work on a drifting melody and an interlude of delicately pretty piano by Jon Ozment. "The Station," featuring Belzer on clarinet, conveys a deeply introspective mood. The group closes on a groove with "Tinjitu," a relaxed roll with Belzer on altoa tune that has a Joe Zawinul "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" feelingand check out the "bouncing ball" rhythm this group sneaks in there.
A first rate jazz outing that walks a line between grooves and freedom. Beautiful!
Track Listing: Deep Focus; The Ember Waltz; Misfit the Second; No Blue on Mars (It's All Red); The Station; Truism; Tinjitu.
Personnel: Matt Belzer: soprano and alto saxophones, alto flute, clarinet; Scott Tiemann: drums, cymbals; Drew Waters: bass; Jon Ozment: piano, synth electronics.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Modern Jazz