All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

225

Mark Isaacs: Aurora

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
As Tell It Like It Is (ABC Jazz, 2009), amply proved, sometimes it's better to work with local musicians who, through regular touring, establish a singular collective voice. That's not to say Resurgence (ABC Jazz, 2007) was bad—it's hard to imagine anything with bassist Jay Anderson, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and saxophonist Bob Sheppard as lacking in the firepower department. Still, when looking at Australia-based pianist Mark Isaacs' discography of the past decade, the standout albums have invariably been those featuring fellow Aussies—lesser-known internationally, perhaps, but ultimately the ingredients of a much more compelling ensemble.

Aurora also demonstrates the benefits of consistency. If the live Tell It Like It Is was an improvement over Resurgence's chemistry and collective energy, then Aurora trumps it yet again, with some of Isaacs' most appealing writing to date and even greater empathic interaction. Isaacs, saxophonist Matt Keegan and guitarist James Muller solo in tandem, like a well-honed tag team, in the final minutes of the impressionistic rubato tone poem, "Threnody," which opens with an a capella piano intro that harkens back to ECM dates by pianist Richie Beirach, like Eon (1975) and Hubris (1977), and reflects the influential classical background shared by both pianists.

But it's not all abstraction and implication. Isaacs and his Resurgence Band get positively propulsive, with drummer Tim Firth driving the energetic "For the Road" with a pulse reminiscent of the late Tony Williams on Miles Davis' "It's About That Time," from the classic In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969). Muller begins on his own, his tart tone recalling John Scofield but with a little less grit. The American guitarist has been an unmistakable touchstone, but the Australian six-stringer has long since subsumed this and other roots, like his channeling Allan Holdsworth to great effect on drummer Chad Wackerman's Legs Eleven (Self Produced, 2004). When he first emerged, in 1990s with groups like Sonic Fiction, Muller was more a remarkable chameleon than distinctive personality, but in the ensuing years, in collaboration with Isaacs—the pianist's sole near-constant companion since 1998's On Reflection (Grace Recordings)—and on solo recordings like 2006's Kaboom (Birdland), he's demonstrated why, in Australia, he's become the first call guitarist of choice for so many musicians.

As ever, Isaacs combines deeper lyricism and an avoidance of "look at me" pyrotechnics, while impressing consistently on tracks like the contrapuntal "Aurora," which feature his most incendiary solo of the set, matched in relentless intensity and drive by both Muller and Keegan, and again driven by Firth and bassist Brett Hirst, who are both featured in the second half of this powerful ten-minute closer.

As a bonus, Aurora also features a DVD with the entire Tell It Like It Is album, effectively reissuing it as a concert video, complete with song introductions as a bonus feature. For those who've yet to check out Isaacs and his Resurgence Band, it's the perfect introduction, effectively shining a spotlight on the different (but equally important) kinds of energies and synergies that emerge in the studio and on the concert stage.

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

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

For the Road

For the Road

Mark Isaacs
Aurora

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Duende

Duende

Gracemusic
2013

buy
Aurora

Aurora

Gracemusic
2011

buy
Resurgence

Resurgence

ABC Jazz
2007

buy
Visions

Visions

Vorticity Music
2006

buy

Related Articles

Read Postcard Collection CD/LP/Track Review
Postcard Collection
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 21, 2018
Read Der Dichter Spricht CD/LP/Track Review
Der Dichter Spricht
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: June 21, 2018
Read Dodecahedron CD/LP/Track Review
Dodecahedron
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 21, 2018
Read The Chopin Project CD/LP/Track Review
The Chopin Project
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 21, 2018
Read Walk The Walk CD/LP/Track Review
Walk The Walk
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: June 21, 2018
Read Grime Scene CD/LP/Track Review
Grime Scene
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 20, 2018
Read "Standards" CD/LP/Track Review Standards
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 16, 2017
Read "Karyobin" CD/LP/Track Review Karyobin
by John Eyles
Published: November 7, 2017
Read "Crossing Borders" CD/LP/Track Review Crossing Borders
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 28, 2018
Read "Songs Without Words" CD/LP/Track Review Songs Without Words
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 3, 2017
Read "Masters In Bordeaux" CD/LP/Track Review Masters In Bordeaux
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 19, 2017
Read "Země" CD/LP/Track Review Země
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: March 12, 2018