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Alex Norris: A New Beginning

David A. Orthmann By

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Norris’ first date as a leader is indebted to the spectrum of hard bop sounds of the 50s and 60s. Within the wide parameters of this genre, the trumpeter’s compositions are showing signs of individuality, such as “Ontology,” a funk-jazz tune, which stays in the groove despite the absence of an obvious back beat. A cunning improviser who occasionally reveals the influence of Miles Davis, Norris never struggles with the instrument, and forsakes long, complicated phrases in favor of short, syncopated lines which leave plenty of space for the rhythm section to react. His front line partner, tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy provides an interesting contrast with somewhat convoluted lines which frequently turn raw and emotional.

The middle of the disc offers a change of pace with two tracks featuring the vocals of Claudia Acuna. “You Go To My Head” begins as a conventional ballad with Acuna singing the words in a beautifully relaxed manner and pianist George Colligan providing accompaniment that is both sensitive and, at times, daring. The band comes in, accelerates to a camelwalk tempo and, after Norris’ muted solo, Acuna sings the words again, so assertively that she doesn’t even seem to take a breath.

Colligan (who has played with the trumpeter since middle school), bassist Dwayne Burno, and drummer Joe Strasser are an ideal rhythm section for Norris’ designs. They meet the challenges of his varied material, and contribute strong solos. In particular, regardless of the nature of the tune or the tempo, Strasser’s dry, precise sounding drums and cymbals constantly keep the music in the pocket.

Track List:New Beginning; Ontology; Night Bus; You Go To My Head; Ze Kol Ma Sheyesh; Good Addiction; Ugly Beauty; Delta; Sympathy; Blues for the Guardian Angels.

Personnel: Alex Norris

Title: A New Beginning | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Blue Moon

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