Glenn Astarita joined All About Jazz in 1997
Longtime contributor to AAJ and Downbeat, Jazz Review, EjazzNews, Radio DirectX.
Twenty-five year old saxophonist Chet Doxas surges onward as one of Canada's modern jazz young lions. Here with his quartet, Doxas blends a slightly retro, jazz-fusion vibe with shifting rhythms and straight-ahead swing vamps, and the band's forthright gait certainly packs a punch. Doxas himself favors an edgy sound, where harmonic development is hardwired into unexpected time changes, probing solos, cyclical currents and arresting dynamics. The album contains enough diversity to sustain interest, and for such a young lad Doxas demonstrates gobs of maturity. Future outings, however, might benefit from a more considered collective focus, something to set the band apart from other young and exciting outfits performing in a similar vein.
Best OfJazz & Rock Fusion
Guitarist Frank Gambale's engagement with Chick Corea's Electrik Band, and stints with Vital Information, revealed only some of his very varied talents. Possessing Herculean chops and a singular musical persona, Gambale's rapid, chord-sweeping technique and blitzing, single note flurries might dismay less technically advanced players. This disc is one of three genre-based compilations (the other two are Best OfThe Acoustic Side and Best OfContemporary Jazz Side.) The tracks featured on this side cover the musical terrain many of Gambale's admirers will be most familiar with. He applies his staggeringly advanced technical facility to thoroughly entertaining musical structures. Whether breaking the sound barrier with bone-crunching licks, or shredding above straight-four rhythms, Gambale's penchant for redefining melodies and soaring heavenward has become his trademark. This compilation is a valuable snapshot of his fifteen-year solo career.
The Ed Palermo Big Band
Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance
For the past several years alto saxophonist/arranger Ed Palermo and his big band have been performing the music of Frank Zappaand Palermo has it down to a deeply personalized science. Sure, the original compositions are amazingly complex, but Palermo's arrangements successfully fuse Zappa's idiosyncratic harmonic approach with torrid swing vamps and other creative departures. Drummer Ray Marchica effortlessly handles the difficult time signatures and provides a solid foundation for the orchestral parts. Organist Ted Kooshian's sleek and fluent soloing adds spice and color. Carl Restivo's endearing vocals, on "Mom and Dad/Oh No, inject childlike innocence into a piece teeming with rich horn charts and knotty twists and turns. Palmero's latest effort is an irresistible charmer and likely to find its way onto numerous end of year top-ten lists.
Hans Ulrik/Steve Swallow/Jonas Johansen
Tin Pan Aliens
Throughout this peppery modern jazz outing, Steve Swallow's limber electric bass lines provide bump and chutzpah for his band-mates' in-the-pocket bop and swing vamps. Danish players Hans Ulrik (tenor saxophone) and Jonas Johansen (drums) keep the ball rolling as the trio maintains a capacious gait, full of flair and variety. Ulrik's dry tone will be a pro or a con, depending on individual taste, but the band's inclusive line of attack presents quite a few interesting propositions. Besides a drawling blues number and some calypso suggestions, the music is primarily engineered over brisk movements and acutely exercised stop/start motifs. It's a thoroughly hip venture, distinguished by the musicians' refreshingly no-frills and get-to-the-point approach.
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