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Tenor saxophonist Cliff Colon makes his recording debut as a leader with Contraband, a disc containing jazz arrangements of music from a 1980s 8-bit video game called Contra. The disc's nine tracks chronicle each level of the game, in sequential order.
Underneath the novelty of playing jazzed-up versions of electronic video game music lies clever arranging and hard-blowing solos. After the thirteen-second anthem "Intro," Colon and company set off on an adventurous journey through a mostly modal, post-bop landscape. As might be expected, the melodies heard throughout the disc are simple, yet work surprisingly well in a jazz setting. The up-tempo "Jungle" features scorching solos by Colon, alto saxophonist J. Charles, guitarist Frank Seeberger and keyboardist Eric Verlinde. The minor-key samba feel of "Base" features intense drumming by D'Vonne Lewis and a Chick Corea-inspired Rhodes workout by Verlinde.
Colon takes control of "The Boss" with an extended, well-developed solo. Here, the leader manipulates the full-range of his horn with firm technical control. More than willing to share the spotlight with his talented ensemble, Colon lets Charles steer the ship with a blistering alto solo on "Waterfall."
"Snow Field" opens with Spanish-influenced coloring courtesy of Seeberger's versatile approach. The guitarist maintains a strong presence throughout the session with ample solo chops and in-the-pocket comping, as on the driving shuffle "Energy Zone." After the dramatic, highly-arranged "Alien Lair," the disc closes with "End Credits," a serene tension reliever in 6/8 featuring a lyrical upright-bass solo by Chuck Kistler.
Hats off to Colon for bringing fresh sources of material to a straight-ahead situation. Kudos also to artist Ron Harper for his ultra-cool cover design.
Track Listing: Intro; Jungle; Base; The Boss; Waterfall; Snow Field; Energy Zone; Alien Lair; End Credits.
Personnel: Cliff Colon: tenor sax; J. Charles: alto sax; Frank Seeberger: guitar; Eric Verlinde: Rhodes
piano, Hammond organ; Chuck Kistler: bass; D'Vonne Lewis: drums.
Year Released: 2008
| Record Label: Self Produced
| Style: Modern Jazz
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.