Amazon.com Widgets

Roy Nathanson: Sotto Voce (2006)

By Published: | 8,825 views
Roy Nathanson: Sotto Voce How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

An intriguing combination of spoken word, multipart vocal harmonies and adventurous instrumental jazz with a surprising rhythmic twist, Sotto Voce is not unprecedented in saxophonist/composer Roy Nathanson's discography. With trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, Nathanson is co-founder of the long running Jazz Passengers, those erstwhile guardians of postmodern irreverence. Their career over the past decade has found them reinventing the role of vocals in jazz. Beginning with 1994's In Love, which featured a slew of guest vocalists, including further collaborations with Deborah Harry and Elvis Costello, Nathanson's crew has pushed the art of contemporary jazz singing beyond mere nostalgia.

Nathanson assembled a crack band for this session, which was two years in the making. Trombonist Curtis Fowlkes is Nathanson's venerable foil and a silky-smooth vocalist, contrasting with his expressive trombone stylings. A recent Jazz Passenger recruit, violinist Sam Bardfeld, whose recent Periodic Trespasses (FSNT, 2006) featured surreal voice-over narration, fits in seamlessly with these two mercurial pranksters.

The surprise twist arrives courtesy of Napoleon Maddox. A beatboxing MC from the Cincinnati hip-hop/jazz outfit Iswhat?!, Maddox both sings lead and delivers old school beats in lieu of an actual drummer. Though his percussive vocal contributions may at first seem incongruous, they reveal an internal logic. Singing bassist Tim Kiah rounds out the group; when Maddox isn't spitting out funky hip-hop beats, Kiah holds down the rhythmic foundation.

Nathanson's occasional spoken word passages are bolstered by group harmony vocal refrains with Kiah's wandering bass lines driven by Maddox's inventive beat-box vocalizations. Bardfeld's lyrical violin soars and Fowlkes' blustery trombone sputters and dives while the leader's tart alto spirals out circuitous runs through this heady, modernized sound. Nathanson borrows ideas from Dixieland and other pre-war styles, without actually replicating them.

Nathanson's writing and arranging embodies elements of Great American Songbook nostalgia, but never slavishly. His eclectic interests defy easy categorization, as best exemplified by his choice of covers. A funky take on the 1960's R&B hit "Sunny," an epic reinterpretation of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "The Inflated Tear," and a dramatic reading of "Sunrise, Sunset" (from Fiddler on the Roof) are all highlights on this singular set. Nathanson's originals mine similar depths, from the outright heart on sleeve sentimentality of "Home" to the taut, episodic angularity of "Shake," complete with edgy outré solos.

Utilizing a wicked combination of instrumental and vocal counterpoint, rich vocal harmonies, passionate free-jazz instrumental cadenzas and collective improvisation, this is intimate ensemble music of a highly advanced but conceptually playful nature. Equal parts carnival excess, vaudeville showmanship and Tin Pan Alley smarts, Sotto Voce finds Nathanson and company delivering what may be the year's most unusual and intriguing album.

Track Listing: By The Page; Sunny; Kidnapped; London Story; The Inflated Tear; Sunrise, Sunset; Shake; Home; It's Alright.

Personnel: Roy Nathanson: alto and soprano saxophone, voice; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone, singing; Sam Bardfeld: violin, vocals; Tim Kiah: bass, vocals; Napoleon Maddox: human beatbox, vocals.

Record Label: AUM Fidelity

Style: Modern Jazz


comments powered by Disqus
Support All About Jazz Through Amazon

Weekly Giveaways

Mort Weiss

Mort Weiss

About | Enter

Rotem Sivan

Rotem Sivan

About | Enter

Michael Carvin

Michael Carvin

About | Enter

Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash

Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash

About | Enter

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.

A musician was found with a matching name

Name:

Birthday:

Instrument:

Is this you?