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Brooklyn jazz is happening and those who venture across the bridge will be delighted by the hard-edged ethnically-flavored jazz that they find on the other side. High priced Manhattan real estate has also made places like Park Slope an attractive alternative and as a result, a delightful club scene has sprung up that fosters musical creativity. Two great places to start exploring the new artist collective known as "The Brooklyn Jazz Underground are Sign of the Times and This is my House, the latest from keyboardist Benny Lackner and bassist Anne Mette Iversen respectively.
Though born in Berlin, Lackner's piano trio is an outgrowth of NYC jazz culture whose debut, Not the Same, featured funked up jazzy versions of both Hendrix and Nena. Their sophomore effort includes interpretations of Gershwin; Prince, as the deliciously funky title cut has Derek Nievergelt's bass pumping it up; Björk, with her darkly isolative "Isobel portrayed more organically than originally thought possible as Lackner switches between acoustic and electric; and a standard, "How About You , injected with a huge shot of rhythmic gas by Nievergelt and drummer Robert Perkins. In between are original Lackner compositions that showcase the leader's mastery of both acoustic and electric pianos with a heavier emphasis on the former.
Thematically, the sound is a strong three-legged stool that is buttressed by deft trade offs of the melody and rhythm by each player with elegant interplay highlighting the pensively satisfying "Soul Eyes , "Ballade and "Sister Love . These are offset by the electrically charged weight of the "Feisty Beast and "Rambo Sex Party , whose coy pianistic foreplay builds to a percussive climax before collapsing into melodic snuggling.
Like Lackner, Iversen is an international Brooklyn transplant. Hailing from Denmark, she artfully blends classical European training with deliciously palpable arrangements of original music for a beautifully textured experience. This quartet boasts tenor wizard John Ellis, whose own funky style has been a part of guitarist Charlie Hunter's band, and drummer Otis Brown III, a fixture with tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano. Rounding out this foursome is pianist Danny Grissett who can usually be found sitting in with the finest of NYC jazzers or leading his own trio.
The broad rhythmic base of "Where to Place the House is custom made for Ellis to wail against while "Hm#1 , "Loisaida and the burningly free funky closer "Up give him liberal improvisatory reign to display his gorgeous tone. Grissett alternates lead and rhythm to add an interesting openness to "And Off They Went before he exquisitely opens the Asian- tinged smoky ballad "Dear Captain . With all this power at her disposal, Iversen adeptly leads things through a myriad of colors with precision and creativity. Both these offerings from Brooklyn-based artists whet the appetite for more of the borough's new underground sound.
Tracks and Personnel
Sign of the Times
Tracks: Sign of the Times; Ballade; Dresden Blues; Sister Love; Feisty Beast; Soul Eyes; Rambo Sex Party; Isobel; How About You.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.