How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
It's a pleasure when a group of great jazz players take American standards and reshape them with their own unique stamp. This happens on New York Standards Quartet's Unstandard, where the musical gambitthe direction these musicians take the originalsis often surprising.
, whose forceful soprano and tenor saxophones anchor most pieces.
The clever adaptations begin with the opener, Morgan Lewis' "How High the Moon." On this, the soprano evokes an eerie, funereal feeling, before warming up; this is not the usual bright, bouncy treatment of this jazz staple.)
Likewise, the quartet's version of Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are" takes advantage of the exotic effects a soprano can provide; a bow, here, to John Coltrane
' tenor imprint. The composition, largely unrecognizable at first, soon becomes familiar and goes its atonal way.
Jimmy Van Heusen's ''But Beautiful," becomes pastoral here, with a rippling stream and waterfall effect created by flute, piano and cymbal.
The touchstone of the CD's creative excellence is in Berkman's rework of Victor Young's "Stella By Starlight," known here as "The Ballet Girl Stirs (By Starlight)." After a stunning tour de force opening on tenor, the piano comes to the fore. Near the end, Young's haunting melody asserts itself, which brings a satisfied recognition of what was previously felt subliminally.
Three charming vignettes on "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," each less than an minute, divide the play list, further evidence that Unstandard is not a usual series of the familiar.
Track Listing: How High The Moon; Polka Beamlet; All The Things You Are; Polka Beamlet #2; Stablemates; But Beautiful; Lunar; Interplay; Two Meetings; The Ballet Girl Stirs (by Starlight); After Thought; Summer Nights; Polka Beamlet #3.
Personnel: David Berkman: piano; Tim Armacost; soprano and tenor saxophones, flute; Yosuke Inoue; bass; Gene Jackson; drums.