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James Carney: Ways & Means (2009)

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James Carney: Ways & Means How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Pianist James Carney takes the parameters involved in scoring films and applies them with the discipline of a jazz composer on the ambitious Ways & Means, the kind of challenging and cohesive work that listeners have come to expect from this exemplary musician.

Carney's band is as great a gathering of talent as one can find and they don't waste a note in his intricate arrangements. The excellence of Tony Malaby
Tony Malaby
Tony Malaby

sax, tenor
's tenor and Josh Roseman
Josh Roseman
Josh Roseman

trombone
's trombone drive "Nefarious Notions"; Carney blends acoustic and synthesized sounds to produce a wonderful aural bouquet on the epic "Squatters," Peter Epstein
Peter Epstein
Peter Epstein
b.1967
sax, sopranino
adding a sprite of a soprano sax above Mark Ferber
Mark Ferber
Mark Ferber

drums
's impatient cymbal tapping, while trumpeter Ralph Alessi
Ralph Alessi
Ralph Alessi
b.1963
trumpet
doesn't play a solo as much as sing an aria. The improvised "Champion of Honesty," which opens with someone (probably Alessi) mumbling into his horn, sounds like Satan's Philharmonic warming up before a concert.

Carney's layered keyboard work paces the eerie "Onondaga," with Ferber's measured drumming and Epstein's passionate soprano building up the tension. "Legal Action" sounds like a marriage between jazz and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. "Pow Wow" is a free jazz type of improv that sounds like something Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
or John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
might have assembled. Even the ballad "Gargoyles," a touching tribute to Carney's late drummer Dan Morris, is just as rich with the layered interplay that defines the disc.

To say that Carney is simply a jazz musician would be somewhat off the mark. With all of the styles and influences he seamlessly integrates on Ways & Means, his music would disintegrate the boundaries of any single genre into which one might try to place it.

Track Listing: Nefarious Notions; Squatters; Champion of Honesty; Onondaga; The Business End; Legal Action; Fallout; Pow Wow; Gargoyles.

Personnel: Peter Epstein: soprano and alto saxophones; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Josh Roseman: trombone; James Carney: acoustic and electric pianos, analog synthesizer, glockenspiel; Chris Lightcap: contrabass; Mark Ferber: drums.

Record Label: Songlines Recordings

Style: Fringes of Jazz


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