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Mark Soskin and his merry band of players are not seeking a new way in to the jazz scene, but they know which door works, and they pass through like the best glass cleaner. Each of the 8 tracks are long enough to get into and steaming with what I call bunny go. You never know what speed the little guy's set at until it happens.
Here's what Kurt Weil claims in his cd booklet essay. 'There is a corner in the field of modern contemporary jazz, where melodic content is positioned above pure technical mastery of instruments, where complex and fluent lines reign over emotional outbursts, and intricate, intelligently structured harmonies prevent the musician from delivering commonplace improvisations. None of Mark Soskin's music inherent on this album qualifies for any kind of shock therapy!' Indeed not. Mark's work is neither kind of pill. Doesn't put you to sleep, doesn't keep you up. Mellow, modern jazz with full band sound.
Mark leads the way through basically everything, though he will lease out control on a few tracks. The hornly 'Cliffhanger' is just such a 6 minute combo, trilling with Tim's trumpet after the 1.5 minute mark, once the blow boys have finished up with what's left of the original melody.
'Lefty' begins with chorded piano, a stick beat, and proceeds to a harmony horn section as the rhythm players group and plan their strategy. Good way to end the cd. Most tracks were written by Mark, with Bud Powell and Bill Evans exceptions. The jams are long and packed with goodness, spirited in a way that falls into planned jazz, with the taste of improv licking around all edges.
Mark Soskin gave up a formal education at the Berklee College of Music (well, he could stand a year and a half of it) to go in for the real schooling: gigging with those that know. Mark knows now. Listen to him, won't you?
Track Listing: 17 Elysian Fields Time Remembered Pals Manfredo's Fest Cliffhanger Un Poco Loco Lefty
Personnel: Mark Soskin - piano; Tim Hagans - trumpet, flugelhorn; Billy Drewes - saxes; Jay Anderson - bass; Matt Wilson - drums; Daniel Sadownick - percussion, congas
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.