What happens when you put four distinct voiceseach one equally powerfultogether in an ensemble? The chance that they will pull in different directions is quite real. The fact that the repertoire is as exciting as it is challenging is also quite the lure to fly in the face of convention, even if the rest of the cohort is not quite ready. Such a prospect must surely have presented itself to BANNsaxophonist, Seamus Blake, bassist, Jay Anderson, guitarist, Oz Noy and drummer Adam Nussbaumwhich comes together for the startling As You Like. Blake and Noy dance contrapuntally on the acutely angled rhythmic slant of BANN's take on Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Arethe guitarist shredding the melody with bold, soaring dissonant harmonies that flow into long loping lines, so disconnected from the melody it is a wonder he finds his way back to it at all.
A mind-expanding version of Thelonious Monk's "Played Twice" brazenly catches fire, its exquisite, jagged structure remaining aglow as Blake's swiveling lines are chopped up by Anderson's emphatic bass and Nussbaum's amorphous drums. Add Noy's bravado, the guitarist seeming to leap from the precarious heights of his solo into shimmering harmonic calm. None of this is preparation for the group's take on David Crosby's "Guinevere," which settles on the consciousness like a high-placed glacial lake. Noy's glistening licks are seductive, as is Blake's rendering of the melody in a dreamy, elegiac manner. Yet all of this standard stuff is, it seems, expressly there to create the perfect setting for the originals that follow, as if they were a warm-up to the main event.
The harmolodics of Anderson's "Will Call" become a breathtaking race to take music past the known horizon of both melody and harmony, as the group breaks fresh ground in ensemble playing. The bassist's tender introduction to the sweepingly nostalgic balladry of "Days of Old"double stops and allgives way to Blake's bleary tenor. Nussbaum demonstrates a wonderful feel for the pastoral on "Days of Old," as does Anderson on "At Sundown," which incorporates elements of bluegrass, Noy wailing and howling in high and lonesome fashion with his accompanying licks, matched by the deep, shuffling offbeat of Anderson's exquisite solo. Noy's swaggering "Minor Shuffle" belies its spry and slightly melancholy melody. Not surprising, for the company in which it is played, "As You Like" is quite funky, and the group appropriately ends with the proverbial doffing of the hat to Joe Henderson in the explosive "Isotope."
In the end, As You Like is a testament to the sparks that fly when fiery heads bang together.
All The Things You Are; Played Twice; Guinnevere; Will Call; Days of Old; As You
Like; At Sundown; Minor Shuffle; Isotope.
Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; Oz Noy: guitar; Jay Anderson: double bass;
Adam Nussbaum: drums.
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