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Saxophonist Bill McHenry's latest CD is a successful meeting of three of jazz's finest younger talents with one of the music's most venerated players. McHenry, who produced the CD and composed all nine selections, has a beautiful tone, strong and clear with an open freshness. He has a fluent sense of melody, but he can also let go of structure and work with the insides of chords. McHenry is also an excellent composer with a gift for inventive structures, and he gives his quartetwhich includes Ben Monder on guitar, Reid Anderson on bass, and Paul Motian on drumsplenty of room to breathe.
The CD has a spacious mood and a sense of restraint that makes it an example of contemporary cool. The quartet's lack of piano gives the songs an airy feel, which fits perfectly with the pleasing clarity of McHenry's tone. Several songs stand out: "Stars (Heavenly Bodies)" features subtle guitar work by Monder, who sounds like a gently chiming bell, and there's also a nice bass run by Anderson. "Social Unconsciousness" has a sense of urgency, with a fine Monder solo, and "Alfombra Magica" has a lovely lyricism and yearning that branches off into unexpected electronic directions.
Any time a group has Paul Motian as its drummer, it benefits from his effortless style and flexible precision. Motian has been playing drums for over sixty years, and he is part of jazz's bedrock. Yet Motian always keeps vital, and he's thoroughly comfortable with the younger generation of musicians. His work here enhances an already excellent group, adding an underpinning of history and inspiration.
Track Listing: 1. Alfombra Magica (6:20)
2. Social Unconciousness (4:50)
3. Time (5:16)
4. Dimensions (6:56)
5. Music has Meaning (9:54)
6. Stars (Heavenly Bodies) (4:28)
7. Idea #1 (2:58)
8. Two Chords (3:06)
9. The Hit (5:14)
Personnel: Bill McHenry : tenor saxophone;
Ben Monder : guitar;
Reid Anderson : bass;
Paul Motian : drums.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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