Having been part of the New York scene since graduating from Berklee in 2004, bassist/composer/arranger Michael Oien
has obviously taken his time in making his first record.
But it was worth the wait, because And Now
is destined to be on many "Best Of Lists" for 2015.
Leading a smoking and very tight quintet consisting of Matthew Stevens on guitars, alto saxophonist Nick Vadeen, pianist Jamie Reynolds and Eric Doob on drums, Oien impresses with the gift of memorable melodies (even hooks!), driving rhythms and architectural arrangements.
The first thing to notice, especially through headphones, is that Oien and Doob play as a single unit. Oien is a very strong bassist, whose lines pulsate with electricity, and Doob anticipates everything he does, providing an extremely stable bottom over which the band can feel unconstrained. The lock-in between them is palpable.
From its first notes, the opening track of "In The Early Autumn" creates a huge visual space with golden fields waving in the afternoon sun; this could be an ECM track if not for the more or less overt references to Americana.
The energy rises from there, as first "Skol" and then "Mad To Live" bristle and strut. The latter track has an added horn, allowing the theme to be become a wall of sound in three-part harmony.
Lowering the temperature a bit, "Ask Anyone" and "Smile This Mile" allow Reynolds, and especially Vadeen, whose alto sounds many times like a soprano, to fly.
Both tracks demonstrate Oien's ability to melodies that are constructed in such a way as to be easily remembered, but having enough twists, turns and arranging to keep the discriminating listener's attention. "Smile" will most definitely get airplay.
"Dreamers I-III," which flow together, feel autobiographical somehow, with the ebb and flow within each extended to be among them all. Finally, "All My Trials," with Oien harmonizing with himself while soloing, closes the circle. And Now
is a tantalizing mix of the extroverted and the personal; it is music to be felt, and which will raise the spirits of anyone who listens.
Fresh Sound? You bet. New Talent? Most definitely!
In The Early Autumn; Skol; Mad To Live; Ask Anyone; Smile This Mile; Dreamer, Part I; Dreamer, Part II; Dreamer, Part III; All My Trials.
Michael Oien: bass; Matthew Stevens: accoustic & electric guitars; Nick Videen: alto sax; Jamie Reynolds: piano; Eric Doob: drums. Travis Laplante: tenor sax, track #3).