Naxos Jazz releases an exceptional contemporary jazz disc in Mark Isaacs' Closer. This disc joins the critic's short list of the best Naxos Jazz releases.
It has been easy for me to grow complacent when hearing new Naxos Jazz releases. As a rule, they have all proven interesting and listenable and very representative of the current state of Jazz. However, a couple of Naxos releases have come along that really impressed me and made it on my short-short list of favorite releases. The first was Larry Karush's Art of the Improviser (Naxos Jazz 86026). This disc investigated jazz from its classical origins in Louis Moreau Gottschalk to its 21st Century conception in Cecil Taylor. The second is Lenni-Kalle Tiapale's Nothing to Hide (Naxos Jazz 86035). Tiapale illustrates Scandinavian superiority in jazz with a progressive disc that is fairly beyond definition.
Now, add to these, Australian Mark Isaacs' Closer , a contemporary jazz disc that is seamless in conception, flawless in execution, exuberant in creativity, and judiciously conservative in vision. Pianist Isaacs has produced a contemporay jazz disc better realized and more tasteful than the majority of the Yellowjackets and Rippingtons respective catalogs. Isaacs steers through eight extended originals, ranging from the opening ethereal ballad of "Aussie Angels" to the upbeat tome of "Chrysalis". In all cases, the songs are carefully crafted laces; woven from the tonal threads of Isaacs' accomplished rhythm section and accented by the thoroughly original Jason Cooney on tenor saxophone and James Muller on guitar. Light and airy, this quintet makes extremely complex music natural and accessible. Closer has all of the careful precision of contemporary jazz without the mindless technique mongering of more recent examples. This disc will be on all of my best recording ballots for the year 2000.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.