Pianist Randy Ingram
's fine new recording, The Road Ahead
, exemplifies smooth jazz, though thankfully not in the sense of the FM radio genre. Ingram, bassist Matt Clohesy
and drummer Jochen Rueckert
play with such skill that they almost make it sound effortless.
Ingram composed several of the tunes here, varying in range from the cool "Rock Song #3" to the samba groove of "Dream Song" and the elegant ballad "Hope." The trio does a beautiful job on the Beatles' "For No One," where Ingram's brooding bass notes in the intro are picked up nicely in Clohesy's affecting plucked solo. Rueckert's lovely brushes caress the melody of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most." Playing Ornette Coleman sometimes can be like navigating a minefield, but the group handles "Round Trip" with aplomb, tap dancing among the mines.
Saxophonist John Ellis
sits in on a few selections. He plays a smooth soprano on "Dream Song" and lends a pleasantly languid tenor to the atavistic title track, another Ingram original. Ellis does his best playing on Thelonious Monk's "Think of One," where he builds his excellent solo with a clear, robust tone. No matter what he plays, Ellis chooses his notes carefully, like a boxer waiting for the right opening to unleash a flurry. The end result is jazz that's crisp and expansive without bothersome overreaching. Ingram and his band consistently get it right on The Road Ahead, an impressive debut by a leader and group that one expects will continue to make great music for years.
Concept albums abound in jazz, but it's probable that there's never been one whose theme is plants and flowers. This seems to be the case with Rob Garcia
, but lying behind the various botanical song titles is some edgy, challenging and vibrant music.
A defining moment is Garcia's drum solo on the lighthearted "Joe-Pye Weed." His playing is simple yet sophisticated, a concept that the entire quartet embraces throughout the album. Noah Preminger
's mysterious tenor sets the pace on "Seasons of Stone," where he, Garcia, pianist Dan Tepfer
and bassist Chris Lightcap
have fun bobbing and weaving just outside the beat. Lightcap's melodic pizzicato highlights the excellent title tune and Preminger's fire here shows why he's one of the most highly regarded saxmen around. Garcia's fierce polyrhythms are prominent on the tour de force "Vortex," with tenacious sax embodying the spirit of the title. The band's interplay intensifies as it gradually finds its voice, Tepfer's flowing chords providing counterpoint to Garcia's insistent thrashing. The leader also shines in quieter moments; his brief, gentle brush solo on "A Flower for Diana" is transcendent. There's only one standard on Perennial and the quartet does an excellent job of molding the timeless "Cherokee" seamlessly into their own style with neither the group nor the song sacrificing any of its personality. And if there's one thing the Rob Garcia 4 has plenty of, it's personality. Perennial pulls no punches, takes no prisoners and thoroughly satisfies.
Tracks and Personnel The Road Ahead
Tracks: Rock Song #3; Dream Song; For No One; The Road Ahead; So In Love; Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most; Round Trip; Hope; Think of One.
Personnel: Randy Ingram: piano; Matt Clohesy: bass; Jochen Rueckert: drums; John Ellis: saxophones. Perennial
Tracks: Joe-Pye Weed; Seasons of Stone; Perennial; Vortex; A Flower for Diana; Little Trees; Cyberganic; Spores; Cherokee; A Flower for Diana (reprise).
Personnel: Rob Garcia: drums; Noah Preminger: saxophones; Dan Tepfer: piano; Chris Lightcap: bass.