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Mark Isaacs Resurgence Band: Aurora

C. Michael Bailey By

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The last artistic musical movement in jazz to be given a meaningful name was the post-bop movement. Arising out of the mid-1960s as a unifying response to hard bop, modal, the avant-garde and free jazz, post-bop has fairly well dominated the most creative jazz made in the last 30 years. If post-bop has a ground zero, it is the recordings of the second great Miles Davis Quintet (Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams), either collectively or separately.

But, in this same previous 30 year span, jazz has been atomizing in such a way as to continually defy such categorization. The music today operates at such a high level, with such superb musicianship, that disparate influences are seamlessly attached at a note level. The benefit of a long and generous history is that there is much experience to draw from and add to. When this is done well, it hastens and redefines the critical gravity of the music. The result of such an evolution is the Mark Isaacs Resurgence Band.

Isaacs is a well-known and very popular pianist/composer from Australia by way of London, who has been recording since the early 1980s. In the intervening years, Isaacs has evolved and honed a jazz vision as sophisticated as it is unique. His "Resurgence Band" developed out of his 2007 ABC Jazz recording of the same name. Isaacs followed that effort with his first Resurgence Band recording, Tell It Like It Is (ABC Jazz, 2010), defining the sound of early 21st Century jazz in the same way Oliver Nelson defined the jazz sound at mid-20th Century on, for example, Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1961).

The most readily accessible piece on the recording is the R&B-impregnated "For the Road," which opens with a James Muller electric guitar fanfare, ending in a thoroughly down-home blues coda before mating Les McCann/Eddie Harris's "Compared to What} with Art Pepper's "Make a List (Make a Wish)," forming a wickedly complex and lengthy, hook-crammed head. All of the elements of earlier styles are present, but the prism of Mark Isaacs refracts these styles upward, into new musical realms.

Isaacs does this with the following ballad, "Bagatelle" which begins with the familiar Pachebel "Canon in D Major" harmonic progression. The past can be heard, but only through the glass, transformed by the composer and his considerable band. Generously, Isaacs includes a DVD of the band's live performance of the previous recording, Tell It Like It Is that definitively drives home the power and impressiveness of this music.

Track Listing: CD: Will-'o-the-wisp; Good Tidings; Emergence; Threnady; For the Road; Bagatelle; Aurora. DVD: Minsk; You Never Forget Love; Homecoming; Night Song Part 1; Night Song Part 2; Angel; Tell It Like It Is; Between the Shores. Bonus Features: Intro by Andrew Ford; What Was Said Between Songs.

Personnel: Mark Isaacs: piano; James Muller: electric and acoustic guitars; Matt Keegan: soprano and tenor saxophones; Brett Hirst: bass; Tim Firth: drums.

Title: Aurora | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Gracemusic

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