224

Nagl, Bernstein, Akchote, Jones: Big Four Live

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Nagl, Bernstein, Akchote, Jones: Big Four Live Playing music which references much of jazz history, from early New Orleans collective improvisation through contemporary conservatoire-informed styles, Big Four uses similar instrumentation to soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet's 1940 quartet with cornetist Muggsy Spanier, guitarist Carmen Mastren and bassist Wellman Braud. It's no accident—the concept was suggested to alto saxophonist Max Nagl by Hat Hut producer Werner X. Uehlinger.

And it proves to have been a eureka moment. Simultaneously cerebral and swinging, and never losing the sense of play which runs through the Bechet group's recordings, Nagl's band—light years away from sterile revivalism—is a resounding affirmation of the creative potential of the post-modern imagination.

The rich mix of history and genre central to the group's remit is enhanced by the individuals involved, who by design—and, no doubt, some serendipity—mesh into a magically inventive unit far bigger than the sum of its parts. Nagl himself, best known for less traditionally-inspired projects than this, is convincingly at home in a sweep of settings including New Orleans, blues and new thing impressionism. He leads not from the front, but from the ranks, and gives at least as much mic-time to trumpeter Steven Bernstein as he does to himself.

Bernstein, founder of Sex Mob and since involved in a variety of other mutant groove projects, balances Nagl's instinctive art-house inclinations with a growling, gutbucket style which, in the low register, gives his horn the quality of a New Orleans tailgate trombone. Other leaders who've called on Bernstein's empathy with New Orleans pioneer jazz include singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright, who hired him to arrange the title track of Release The Stars (Geffen, 2007). Bernstein's playing is heavenly throughout—and it would be hard, anyway, not to enjoy someone who titles three of his tunes "New Viper Dance," "Teahouse Tango" and "Muggles 2000."

Guitarist Noel Akchote is another stone delight. His playing reveals influences from Derek Bailey through Muddy Waters, with a little bit of Echoplex-pioneer Sandy Bull thrown in for extra spice. But the resulting, arresting mélange is entirely his own. His tone is warm, full and resonant, even on the sharpest top-end shards. His improvisations are unfailingly melodic, often prettily so, and his lines long and architectural. Bassist Bradley Jones, who has to stoke the boiler without the aid of a drummer, does that and a lot more. He's another melodic soloist who makes his instrument sing.

Big Four Live was recorded at Jazzfestival Willisau in September 2005, and five of its nine tracks—Bernstein's reefer trilogy and Nagl's "Big Four" and "Monx"—are tunes from the band's first album, Big Four (Hat Hut, 2002). Whether it's the time-warped thematic counterpoints and improvised duets of Nagl and Bernstein, the ever inventive comping and soloing of Akchote, or the sense of fun which pervades all the music, there is plenty here to enjoy and return to. File alongside tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp's Mama Too Tight (Impulse, 1966), perhaps, for contrast.

Track Listing: Radiergummi; Artie Shaw; Monx; New Viper Dance; Teahouse Tango; Big Four; Ring A Ring; Muddy; Muggles 2000.

Personnel: Max Nagl: alto saxophone; Steven Bernstein: trumpet; Noel Akchote: guitar; Bradley Jones: bass.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Hat Hut Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Dreamsville CD/LP/Track Review Dreamsville
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 26, 2017
Read April CD/LP/Track Review April
by Jerome Wilson
Published: April 26, 2017
Read Adam's Apple CD/LP/Track Review Adam's Apple
by Greg Simmons
Published: April 26, 2017
Read Small World CD/LP/Track Review Small World
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 26, 2017
Read High Time CD/LP/Track Review High Time
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 26, 2017
Read Rags And Roots CD/LP/Track Review Rags And Roots
by James Nadal
Published: April 25, 2017
Read "The Duke Box 2" CD/LP/Track Review The Duke Box 2
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 14, 2016
Read "Standard Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Standard Blue
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 3, 2017
Read "Sunrain" CD/LP/Track Review Sunrain
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 25, 2016
Read "Perfectly Out Of Place" CD/LP/Track Review Perfectly Out Of Place
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 12, 2016
Read "April" CD/LP/Track Review April
by Jerome Wilson
Published: April 26, 2017
Read "Apprentice" CD/LP/Track Review Apprentice
by Alex Franquelli
Published: October 29, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!