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Criss Cross Jazz Roundup: Part One

C. Andrew Hovan By

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At a time when the record industry seems poised on the edge of a major collapse, especially in terms of its return on jazz product, it's the small labels that continue to keep the music fresh and alive. Talk about Sharp Nine, Reservoir, HighNote/Savant, MaxJazz and several others and you're talking producers who are willing to take a chance on music that they personally find rewarding even while knowing that sales figures in the long run will be modest at best.

But even before these guys hit the neighborhood, the Dutch Criss Cross Jazz label was there documenting some of the finest young talent out of New York. Fortunately, the label still thrives and is one of the few that can say the majority of their healthy-sized catalog still remains in print and available.

Here in the first of two parts, we take a brief look at some of the latest offerings from Criss Cross Jazz.

Adam Rogers
Time And The Infinite
Criss Cross Jazz

Much like his contemporaries such as Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ben Monder, and Jonathan Kreisberg, guitarist Adam Rogers has taken a forward-thinking approach to the instrument that is as much about melodic improvisation as it the creative use of tone and texture. On Rogers' fourth set as a leader for Criss Cross, he puts himself out there in a trimmed down trio format that leans heavily on his ability to create much of the melodic and harmonic interest.

The fact that Rogers largely succeeds speaks well to his versatility and uniqueness. Even when tackling standards as familiar as "Night And Day or "Without A Song, he quickly breaks free of cliché and restraints and dives into expansive improvisations that truly tell a story. Rogers shows another side of his personality by utilizing his acoustic guitar on the title cut and on "Young And Foolish, both of which take on a romantic touch akin to the classicism of vintage Ralph Towner. Heavyweights in their own right, Rogers could ask for no better trio mates than bassist Scott Colley and drummer Bill Stewart, the trio reaching its creative peak on this not to be missed recording.

David Binney/Edward Simon
Criss Cross Jazz

Although he has been somewhat of a media darling as of late, this writer has personally found the work of saxophonist David Binney to be somewhat calculating and emotionally detached. As such, it's a real pleasure to hear him joining forces with multifaceted pianist Edward Simon for a rich tapestry of sound that seems to bring out the best in both artists. On a set of original material by both leading men and one piece by bassist Scott Colley, the basic quartet is augmented by a brass section, a percussionist, guitarist Adam Rogers, and the wordless vocals of Luciana Souza.

These pieces do not swing in a conventional sense, but go for a broader groove-based approach and the melodies are usually voiced with Souza filling out the textures. There's also a healthy balance between up tempo items and more thoughtful pieces such as "Home and "Govinda. All in all, this one's a highpoint in the catalogs of both Simon and Binney.

Seamus Blake
Way Out Willy
Criss Cross Jazz

More often heard in a sideman capacity than leading his own ensembles, saxophonist Seamus Blake has been with Criss Cross since debuting The Call in 1993. While his subsequent sessions for the label have been scattered widely across the years, they have always seemed to clarify Blake's creative muse at a particular point in time while making a statement for his need for wider recognition. Even when other tenor men of his comparative age seem to be getting far more publicity, Blake still seems to hover somewhere below the radar and it's a shame considering his immense talents. The present set might just be his strongest yet as a leader and much can be said for the contributions of pianist David Kikoski and drummer Bill Stewart, not to mention impressive showings from upcoming guitarist Lage Lund and bassist Orlando LeFleming.

All the tunes are Blake's and each one is a modest gem filled with substance and enough variety to keep things interesting over the course of the entire program. Not afraid to let the melody dictate the groove, "Badlands is set in 5/4, while "Hoi Polloi is partly set in 9/4. Everyone takes it all in stride and to their credit, it never sounds forced or contrived. As a bonus, Stewart gets some added face time via Blake's "Way Out Willy, a tip of the hat to the drummer.

Melvin Rhyne
Front And Center
Criss Cross Jazz

Best known for time spent with the legendary guitarist Wes Montgomery, organist Melvin Rhyne is based in Indianapolis these days and still plays quite regularly, while leading a Criss Cross session once in awhile. The latest of his offerings goes for the basic trio set up, with long time partner guitarist Peter Bernstein making the scene once again. Nothing too profound occurs, but there's still plenty to enjoy, the least of which being Bernstein's grounded and deeply melodic statements. Consisting largely of standards, Rhyne's two originals, "Kind David and "A.P.J., are savvy numbers that make one wish he would pick up the pen more often.

Tracks and Personnel

Time And The Infinite

Tracks: Night And Day; Elegy; Time And The Infinite; Young And Foolish; Cheryl; Esteban; Without A Song; Ides Of March; I Loves You, Porgy.

Personnel: Adam Rogers: guitar; Scott Colley: bass; Bill Stewart: drums.


Tracks: We Dream Oceans; Impossible Question; Amnesia; El Parrandero; Govinda; 24 Miles To Go; Impossible Question Reprise, Home.

Personnel: David Binney: alto saxophone; Edward Simon: piano; Scott Colley: bass; Brian Blade: drums; Luciana Souza: vocals; Adam Rogers: guitar; Shanes Endsley: trumpet; Jesse Newman: trumpet; Alan Ferber: trombone; Pernell Saturnino: percussion.

Way Out Willy

Tracks: Fear Of Roaming; Badlands; Trust In You; Way Out Willy; Hoi Polloi; The Jupiter Line.

Personnel: Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; Lage Lund: guitar; David Kikoski: piano; Orlando DeFleming: bass; Bill Stewart: drums.

Front And Center

Tracks: King David I; Yesterday's Child, All Blues; When Lights Are Low; I Hear A Rhapsody; A.P.J.; Bamboo; I Want To Talk About You; Bones; Jordu: Kind David II.

Personnel: Melvin Rhyne: organ; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Ray Appleton: drums.


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