Not to be confused with the British Association of Neuroscience Nurses, or the Builders Association of Northern Nevada, BANNthe brainchild of drummer Adam Nussbaum
is a quartet which nevertheless matches brain with brawn. Saxophonist Seamus Blake
, bassist Jay Anderson
, Nussbaum and guitarist Oz Noy
pool their initials and their considerable individual talents, to create a vibrant, swinging unit with empathy in abundance. There's a veritable spring in the quartet's collective step, and a buoyancy that permeates the playing on As You Like.
The four musicians sound as if they really enjoy playing together, and a fine balance is struck between individual virtuosity and group interplay.
Anderson and Nussbaum have played in numerous settings over thirty years, and provide the most solid of foundations from which Noy and Blake launch narratives of flair and imagination. Blake's rippling, old school tenor and Noy's contemporary edge are like chalk and cheese in their unison lines on "All the Things You Are," a vibrant interpretation of the Jerome Kern classic. New life is breathed into another oldie, pianist Thelonious Monk
's "Played Twice"; Blake's mature, dry tone and inventive lines are reminiscent of Charlie Rouse
, who played tenor on the original half a century ago, while Anderson's solo skips and shuffles with a very Monk-like logic. Nussbaum and Noy keep everyone on their toes by slipping a wispy, reggae-ish rhythm into the tune, and Oz's knotty, blues-toned solo contains vocabulary running from hard-bop to fusion.
The quartet's in meditative mood on a beautiful interpretation of David Crosby's "Guinnevere." Gently seductive bass, feathery drums and Frisellian loops provide the canvas for Blake to unfurl a wonderful solo, which weds yearning melancholy and quiet power. The musicians are equally at home on Anderson's racing "Will Call," an intense bop exercise which has the rousing signature sound of a first-set closer. By contrast, Anderson's tender intro sets the tone for Nussbaum's balladic "Days of Old," a captivating piece of nostalgia which seems much shorter than its actual five minutes. Co-written by all four musicians, "As You Like" bridges the years between '60s hard-bop and more contemporary fare, courtesy of Noy's snarling solo, with its swampy, blues flavor.
Anderson's beautiful "At Sundown" gets a dusting down nearly twenty years after it was written, and given spit and polish by Noy's bottle-neck guitar, which lends a dreamy Hawaiian air to a tune which dances like a slow calypso. Almost as enchanting is Noy's "Minor Shuffle," which carries a simply lovely melody; Blake and Noy stretch out over the swinging rhythm section, with Noy sounding like a bad-assed Wes Montgomery
, with the bit between the teeth. A splendid version of tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson
's "Isotope" takes the quartet out on a high, with Blake and Noy leaving big imprints of great contrast on this hard-swinging classic.
BANN draws its inspiration chiefly from the jazz tradition, but displays an utterly contemporary visage on this grooving set of reinvented standards, one inspired cover, and particularly strong originals. There's a special chemistry at work on As You Like
, producing quite magical results.