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Bill Gerhardt: Stained Glass (2008)

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Bill Gerhardt: Stained Glass No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Although Cotangent plays gigs in New York, the band is also a cogent example of the fecundity to be found in regional and international jazz. Pianist Bill Gerhardt and bassist Mike Holstein are charter members of the Jazz Composers Forum, an organization based in Asheville, North Carolina. Tenor saxophonist Marc Mommaas, now Big Apple-based, hails from the Netherlands, where Gerhardt met him during the pianist's decade-long sojourn in Amsterdam. Tim Horner is a veteran drummer on the New York jazz scene. The group developed its original repertoire in Jazz Composers Forum gigs and workshops in the Carolinas as well as gigs in Manhattan.

Gerhardt contributes four pieces, with one each from the other three members. Each has its own singular character and sound that carries through both arranged and improvised sections. The longest, most ambitious track is Gerhardt's title original, an episodic piece that adds Ron Horton's trumpet and waterphones (glass, water-filled bowls with xylophone-like bars attached) played by Holstein and another bassist, Mark Reboul, with their bows. (A waterphone is also played, like a vibes, in the theme of Holstein's "Holding Noa.") "Stained Glass" begins with squeals and moans from the waterphones leading to a bouncing melody from the horns and piano that segues into a second melodic strain with a flamenco rhythm. The piano solos over this section and then the horns take off from the melody in different directions in tandem trumpet and sax solos. This fades to a bass solo leading to out choruses extending the original melodic lines from the horns, piano obligati giving way to a closing from the eerie waterphones.

Other highlights include Gerhardt's two mood-and-theme focused pieces, "Paragraph" and "Words," the first processionally repeating the frame of a slowly unfolding melody throughout the improvisations, the second an airy, semi-rubato setting for floating horn solos. Throughout, Gerhardt's architectonic solos contrast with Mommaas' more expressionistic sax, which has a vocal tone ranging from plaintive to querulous.

Track Listing: Visitor; Little Penny; Paragraph; Words; Stained Glass; Video Tapes and Lies; Holding Noa.

Personnel: Bill Gerhardt: piano; Mike Holstein: bass; Tim Horner: drums; Marc Mommaas: tenor sax.

Record Label: SteepleChase Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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