Michal Urbaniak Quartet: Ask Me Now
Be Bop Be Bop Be Bop Be Bop Be Bop Be Bop It was not so long ago that I was reviewing a Columbia re-release of Urbaniak's Fusion. That recording found the violinist very much in a Jimi Hendrix/Miles Davis electronic mood (appropriate for the early '70s). While a landmark recording, Fusion did not age well. Uhm, what a difference 20 years makes because Urbaniak did age well. Urbaniak has grown all the way up and has chosen retrospection on the present disc. How fortunate.
The Evidence. The disc insert shows a photograph of a middle-aged Urbaniak sporting a red neckerchief, looking quite the gypsy (or the gypsy's fiddle-playing French friend). The music is beautifully arranged and performed. It is also transformed. It is very difficult not to think of Le Hot Club du France when listening to this disc with its hot Bebop and lilting ballads. In fact, I think it would be a safe comparison to say that today Michal Urbaniak is to Stephane Grappelli as Bireli Lagrene is to Django Rhinhardt (would that not be a dream pairing?).
"Orinthology" kicks off this festive collection with full quotations from its harmony parent "How High The Moon." Billy Drummond's ride cymbal and hi hat are crisp and exact, foreshadowing the remaining instrumentation on the piece. Urbaniak bows his way through the songbooks of Dexter Gordon ("Cheese Cake"), Thelonious Monk ("Ask Me Now" and "Little Rootie Tootie"), and Tad Dameron ("Ladybird"). However, Charlie Parker gets most of Urbaniak's attention. "Yardbird Suite" is deftly played with a gentle swing and spirit. "My Little Suede Shoes" is transformed from a Latin cha-cha to a gypsy dance. Urbaniak is very comfortable with this material and he has chosen sidemen who are as comfortable as he is.
The aforementioned Drummond's percussion is sensitive and specific, always providing the appropriate mood and rhythm. Jim Pryor provides both spirited accompaniment and soloing, particularly on "I Fall in Love to Easily" and "Moose the Mooch". Bassist Burno is steady as the foundation. Ask Me Now is a hearty and novel look at modern jazz by accomplished and experienced masters. A super release from Steeplechase.
Track Listing: Ornithology; Cheese Cake; Ask Me Now; Yardbird Suite; My Little Suede Shoes; Ladybird; I Fall In Love Too Easily; Little Rootie Tootie; Moose The Mooche. (Total Time: 64:15)
Personnel: Michal Urbaniak: Violin; Jim Pryor: Piano; Dwayne Burno: Bass; Billy Drummond: Drums.