American pianist Steve Klink recorded these works by singer/songwriter Randy Newman for the German Minor Music jazz record label. Backed by a sympathetic rhythm section, the pianist delves into Newman’s musical persona via these personalized renditions set to jazz. Klink possesses a light touch yet turns up the heat as a vehicle for correlating Newman’s expressive and somewhat quirky vocal delivery into these bluesy jazz works. Not a flashy jazz piano trio type outing by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s more about the artist’s thoughtful ruminations of Newman’s songbook. It all comes together rather nicely.
Asian Improv Records
Tenor and soprano saxophonist Jeff Chan leads this Chicago area quartet through a series of turbo-charged workouts, consisting of linearly devised themes, and torrid soloing ventures. Sadly, the outstanding trumpeter/percussionist Ameen Muhammad passed away on February 27 due to a heart attack, and Chan duly dedicates this recording to his memory. Consequently, the musicians’ rather magical synergy shines radiantly throughout, partly due to the loose yet focused performances by Chicago bass hero Tatsu Aoki and drummer/percussionist Chad Taylor. Chan is a hard blower yet tempers his gutsy performances with meaningful themes and sinuously constructed improvisations.
A drummer by trade, Nebraska’s Hal Darling also performs on various electronic keyboards along with assistance from guitarist Uri Gatton and woodwinds/horns artist Althan Gaiis. You might be able to classify this production within Rick Wakeman, E.L.P, and perhaps Patrick Moraz symphonic progressive-rock style expositions. As Darling’s music maintains a sense of perpetual motion, complete with knotty twists and turns, rumbling percussion maneuvers and tricky time signatures. The synth overlays feature textural elements amid a few doses of musical bravado and a conveyance of triumph. Thankfully, he injects a modern day edge into the grand scheme of things.
Hair-raising interplay amid a rollicking and rumbling fusion of freeform jazz and viciously executed rock patterns. Well, Curlew has outstood many of its peers since its inception during the late ‘70s New York City downtown scene. The latest incarnation of this quintet, featuring its founder, saxophonist/leader George Cartwright, proves that there’s no looking back into the well. Fundamentally or perhaps artistically speaking, the band continues to evolve, yet seldom if ever strays from the prime identifier that earmarks an incontestably unique stylization. Guitarist Dean Granros blazes forth via a wily and pleasantly in-your-face mode of attack. To that end, drummer Bruce Golden provides a limber bottom and promptly turns up the heat when required. Chalk this one up as a top pick for 2003.
Saxophonist Russ Gershon leads these merry New England area instrumentalists through a set that seemingly intertwines mainstream jazz style horn arrangements with the occasional use of synths. The band swings hard and explores multifarious rhythmic passages. The soloing is generally superb. But it’s very easy to discern that these folks have been together for quite awhile. Unlike some large ensembles, where the horn arrangements are apt to sound a bit stiff, the ensemble revels within a novel approach that provides one of the keys to its success. Another fine effort...