James Carney Group: Ways & Means (2009)
Keyboardist James Carney framed the compositions on this recording from a cinematic perspective. Three of the tunes are improvisations and Carney succeeds with both his stances. He and his artful band bring in plenty of drama, a sense of adventure and pure emotional force.
Carney is an accomplished pianist who finds his groove in several styles. As a composer, he is a perspicacious designer of sound fathoming in it his harmonic concepts and the abundant field for his imagination. The aural scope is wide; gentle in the chamber feel, freewheeling in an open situation, trenchant in the development of a theme and balanced enough to invoke the ingrained melodic motifs.
The realization of the music is enhanced by the band all of whom were also on Green-Wood (Songlines, 2007). The chemistry between them gave that CD a tangible presence of their craft, an attribute that they carry strongly into Ways and Means.
Ralph Alessi sets "Nefarious Notions" into motion on silken trumpet lines. Resolution dissolves on the dramatic cross currents only to reshape and give the composition a multi-dimensional thrust. The individual spur of the improvisers adds to the disparity of the elements, with tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby investigating a cavern with boppish notes that thrust and parry and cry. Nestled against this is trombonist Josh Roseman, whose ideas are judiciously poised between straight-ahead and free elements.
A lyrical succulence infuses the compelling "Onondaga." Carney evokes the pastoral air of cool winds and quiet nights on glockenspiel and then piano, his ruminations complemented by the horns. The charm is upped as the tempo opens into an agile frolic.
The improvisations"Champion of Honesty," "The Business End" and "Pow Wow"are meetings of the minds, where anticipation turns into extension as the group plays off ideas and manifests them into new streams. But the individual is as important as the collective in creating patterns that stun and stir, to make for absolutely wonderful progressions.
Mark this CD as another triumph for Carney.
Track Listing: Nefarious Notions; Squatters; Champion of Honesty; Onondaga; The Business End; Legal Action; Fallout; Pow Wow; Gargoyles.
Personnel: James Carney: acoustic and electric pianos, analog synthesizer, glockenspiel; Peter Epstein: soprano and alto saxophones; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Josh Roseman: trombone; Chris Lightcap: contrabass; Mark Ferber: drums.