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The second track on Brooklyn Jazz Underground: Volume 1, a compilation from Brooklyn's collective of independent musicians, is a shock. Sandwiched between the winding melody of bassist Alexis Cuadrado's "El Gran Profeta" and the addictive creativity of trombonist Alan Ferber's "Filin"both tracks steeped in a contemporary jazz sound"Jim White" seems out of place. At first listen, the chorale composed by trumpeter Shane Endsley seems antithetical to the Underground's aesthetic. The CD starts with heads and solos entrenched in bebop and mainstream jazz, but Endsley comes up with something completely different.
"Jim White" is at a dirge tempo, has no solo section and is through-composed. On the surface, it's not muchEndsley's tone is too blatty and flat to carry the harmonybut the meaning of the piece is what matters. Far from being a quirky blemish on the record, what quickly emerges in the four-minute piece is the basis for the entire release: in the Brooklyn Jazz Underground, jazz has ten different definitions. "Jim White is the rule, not the exception.
Drummer Sunny Jain's definition of jazz includes a reverb-laden guitar and a sitar drone. His introduction to "Johnnie Black" is a slow unfurling of melodic ideas, an exploration of mood. After picking up speed, adding jumpy percussion hits and a bass vamp, everything suddenly stops, only to explode into an amalgamation of sound: a pure sonic mess. Out of the ashes emerges an upbeat tenor line which mirrors the pattern of Jain's snare drum. An exercise in contrasts, the ethereal guitar work returns for a slowed down solo section.
Yet another definition comes from Dan Pratt's tenor. Short organ punchesa fast funky groovelay the base for "20/20." Pratt enters in unison with trombonist Ferber, and the two lay down a playful melody, both starting high and tumbling down their respective ranges. This is as far removed from Endsley's chorale as possible, but it still belongs under the same heading.
Though each track is a separate composition, many Underground members play on different tunes. This does nothing to detract from the uniqueness of the collection, and the musicians treat each composition as separate but equal. There is no attempt to make the release a cohesive unit; it's a compilation, and the variety of styles and ideas about jazz reinforce this goal.
Track Listing: El Gran Profeta; Jim White; Filin; Where to Place the House; Johnnie Black; Kailash; Sign of the Times; Wade;
Personnel: Alexis Cuadrado: bass (1, 3); John Ellis: tenor saxophone (1, 3, 4); Alan Ferber: trombone (1, 3, 9); Kris Bauman:
alto saxophone (1); Steve Cardenas: guitar (1); Mark Ferber: drums (1, 3, 9); Shane Endsley: trumpet (2); Joe
Lukasik: tenor saxophone (2); Mark Harris: bass clarinet (2); Wade Sander: trombone (2); David Smith:
trumpet (3); Will Vinson: alto saxophone (3); Douglas Yates: bass clarinet (3); Bruce Saunders: guitar (3); Bryn
Roberts: piano (3); Anne Mette Iversen: bass (4); Danny Grissett: piano (4); Otis Brown III: drums (4); Sunny
Jain: drums/laptop (5); Rez Abbasi: sitar (5); Steve Welsh: tenor saxophone (5); Gary Wang: bass (5); Tanya
Kalmanovitch: viola (6); Myra Melford: piano (6); Benny Lackner: piano (7); Derek Nievergelt: bass (7); Rob
Perkins: drums (7); Ted Poor: drums (8, 10); Ben Monder: guitar (8, 10); Ike Strum: bass (8); Matt Blanchard:
tenor saxophone (8); Eric Biondo: trumpet (8); Dan Pratt: tenor saxophone (9); Jared Gold: organ (9); Jerome
Sabbaagh: tenor saxophone (10); Joe Martin: bass (10).
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.