Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Joshua Breakstone/The Cello Quartet: 88

Mark Sullivan By

Sign in to view read count
Veteran guitarist Joshua Breakstone pays tribute to some of his favorite pianist/composers here. He tells a story about a fellow Berklee student (a saxophonist) who asked legendary saxophonist Sonny Stitt if he could sit in. Stitt shut him down with the question "how many keys on a saxophone?" The novice couldn't answer—there are 23—but everyone knows a standard piano has 88 keys. Breakstone sees the piano and the guitar as extended family, with a comparable chordal role in the rhythm section. The selections chosen for 88 aren't meant to represent the best, or even his favorites—they're simply a diverse collection worthy of note, whether well-known or not.

Most of the pianists are associated with hard bop, and the names will certainly be familiar even if the song titles are unfamiliar. Harold Mabern leads off with "The Chief," his homage to saxophonist John Coltrane. After a rubato unaccompanied guitar introduction, the tune takes off with guitar doubled by Mike Richmond's pizzicato cello, the signature sound of this group. Richmond takes the first solo as well, followed by the leader. Then drummer Andy Watson shines while trading eights with unison lines Breakstone wrote for guitar and cello.

"News For Lulu" comes from Sonny Clark's pen, followed by Cedar Walton's "Black." Bassist Lisle Atkinson gets the spotlight during the rubato opening and closing sections, and the guitar solo includes a clever "Summertime" quote. Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes" and Tadd Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now" are probably the two best known tunes. "Mo Is On" comes from the underappreciated Elmo Hope, "Lolita" from Barry Harris, and Lennie Tristano composed "Lennie's Pennies." Breakstone contributed one original, a memorable bebop tune titled "Eighty-Eight" which is dedicated to the pianists of the world.

Finally, a word about the Cello Quartet. The original incarnation was assembled in Japan, at the request of a bassist collaborator. Not wanting to drag a bass around, he suggested a rhythm section plus cello instead. Several bassists have played the cello—including Ray Brown, Oscar Pettiford, Sam Jones and Ron Carter—so it was not unprecedented. When Breakstone assembled an American version of the band, he initially intended to use the cello "as a solo instrument, just like...a saxophone or trumpet." But the group settled on having the cello play entirely pizzicato, making "a string section accompanied by percussion." The sound is similar to another infrequent configuration, piccolo bass in combination with double bass. It is an unusual sound: fresh for listener and band members alike.

Track Listing: The Chief; News For Lulu; Black; Soul Eyes; Eighty-Eight; Moe Is On; Lolita; If You Could See Me Now; Lennie's Pennies.

Personnel: Joshua Breakstone: guitar; Lisle Atkinson: bass; Andy Watson: drums; Mike Richmond: cello.

Title: 88 | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Capri Records


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Shadow Work CD/LP/Track Review Shadow Work
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Veterans of Jazz CD/LP/Track Review Veterans of Jazz
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Ariel CD/LP/Track Review Ariel
by Paul Rauch
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Fukushima CD/LP/Track Review Fukushima
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Dedication CD/LP/Track Review Dedication
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 21, 2017
Read Surface of Inscription CD/LP/Track Review Surface of Inscription
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 21, 2017
Read "The Time Verses" CD/LP/Track Review The Time Verses
by Geannine Reid
Published: April 1, 2017
Read "Ignacio" CD/LP/Track Review Ignacio
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 16, 2016
Read "The Picasso Zone" CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "The Big Wig" CD/LP/Track Review The Big Wig
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 24, 2017
Read "Blue Canvas" CD/LP/Track Review Blue Canvas
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 4, 2017
Read "Les Deux Versants Se Regardent" CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor