4

Rob Derke & the NYJAZZ Quartet: Blue Divide

J Hunter By

Sign in to view read count
Rob Derke & the NYJAZZ Quartet: Blue Divide The name "NYJAZZ Quartet" does beg the question, "What is New York Jazz?" Even narrowing the definition to "home grown" music doesn't help, since that range runs from the mainstream sounds of Birdland and the Blue Note to the next-level avant-garde associated with Smalls and the late lamented Knitting Factory. With Blue Divide, saxman Rob Derke and his three extraordinary partners —pianist Aruan Ortiz, bassist Carlo De Rosa, and drummer Eric McPherson—have managed to mash those two contrary sub-genres into a galvanizing set that bends the outside of the box without breaking it.

In more ways than one, "Prelude" is an extremely appropriate title for the opening track. The piece seems to be a fairly standard meditation: De Rosa plays searching figures under Derke's mantra-like soprano sax, MacPherson's drum-taps sound like someone's hammering nails in a faraway apartment, and Ortiz' fills and figures recall the non-linear lines he's drawn on his own recordings. Far from being just your basic rubato playground, "Prelude" lets the group establish its own musical language, as the meditation becomes conversation and the kindred spirits come together.

Derke's "mantra" is actually the melody line for De Rosa's bopping waltz "Pasillo Azual," which the group slides into without missing a beat. As McPherson takes his customary perch out on the edges, the bassist's foundation lines jump about as Ortiz attacks the piece with his customary cockeyed brilliance. Normally Ortiz is the ringleader on boundary-stretching works like this, but instead he's just one cog in this extraordinarily ingenious machine, and Derke's own contributions (both instrumental and compositional) match Ortiz' for inventiveness and energy.

"Davey's Dreams" is a straight-up blues that recalls early Miles Davis, but Derke's solo lines are anything but straight up, and Ortiz is essentially the anti- Bill Evans even as McPherson channels his inner Jimmy Cobb. Both the pulsing "Dispossession" and the chaotic closer "Taksim" show how Derke was affected by his time in the tumultuous Middle East, while "G's Waltz" combines Derke's love for his daughter Gabriella with his fears about the world she's growing up in; the resulting image is a father-of-the-bride dancing with his daughter while the wedding reception is falling to pieces and zombies are pounding on the windows.

Believe it or not, there are moments of relative calm on Divide: De Rosa's warm "Knowing" paints a picture of an "Ah hah!" moment and the feeling of accomplishment that should come with it. For Herbie Hancock's "Still Time," Ortiz eschews his default deconstruction mode in favor of a marvelous elegance that shows the obvious respect he holds for the piece's iconic composer. Derke's own solo echoes the romantic side of John Coltrane, and the piece is a welcome rest before the onslaught of "Taksim" takes hold.

Blue Divide will be a tough call for purists of both the mainstream and the avant- garde, because it doesn't "commit" to either mindset. Instead, Derke and his partners have walked that fine line between both schools like a high wire at the circus, with outstanding results.

Track Listing: Prelude; Pasillo Azul; Davey’s Dreams; Dispossession; Knowing; G’s Waltz; Still Time; Taksim.

Personnel: Rob Derke: soprano sax; Aruan Ortiz: piano; Carlo De Rosa: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.

Title: Blue Divide | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Zoho Music


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Eleven Cages CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Afro-Caribbean Mixtape CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Wake Up Call CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 27, 2017
Read The Late Trane CD/LP/Track Review The Late Trane
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall) CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "Fugitive Beauté" CD/LP/Track Review Fugitive Beauté
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 11, 2016
Read "Flux" CD/LP/Track Review Flux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 26, 2016
Read "The Motorman's Son" CD/LP/Track Review The Motorman's Son
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Dream Delivery" CD/LP/Track Review Dream Delivery
by Dave Wayne
Published: July 28, 2016
Read "And Now the Queen - A Tribute to Carla Bley" CD/LP/Track Review And Now the Queen - A Tribute to Carla Bley
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 30, 2016
Read "The Long Journey Home" CD/LP/Track Review The Long Journey Home
by James Nadal
Published: March 17, 2017

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.