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There's an anecdote that surfaces every now and then about the legendary Buddy Rich. The ever hip and irascible drummer/bandleader was once asked, during a hospital stay, if he had any medical allergies. "Country music," he wisecracked. Well, Rich, ever the master showman, might reconsider upon hearing this most enjoyable, highly eclectic release from the incredibly talented, Heart of Country Music-based saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Jay Patten.
With Crystal Nights (A reference to his longstanding friendship and professional association with country artist Crystal Gayle), Patten delivers a baker's dozen of selections that embrace and transcend pop, smooth jazz and country blues-tinged styles. All draw upon and validate Patten's robust résumé as a celebrated composer/lyricist, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, musical director and producer. The eclectic mixture of originals, popular hits, smooth jazz sax and voice over a very soul-solid rhythm section makes for a satisfying gumbo of musical grooves.
Patten's fine saxophone playing reeks of old-time Memphis soul throughout, but especially on the title track and "Bussin' to Memphis." These and other cuts also distinguish Patten as a first-rate composer/lyricist, with seven originals and two co-authored tracks. His intriguing vocal approacha high tenormimics his instrumental playing. It's a voice of honesty, sincerity ("Freedom Song" and the nostalgic "Finally") and experience ("I Don't Have the Heart to Say Goodbye"). His take on Jeff Steinberg's marvelously arranged "And Sinatra Sang Our Song" is, hands down, the performance highlight of the date.
Tipping his already rakishly-angled hat to his Nashville brethren, Patten covers Hank Williams ("I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"), Elvis Presley ("Can't Help Falling in Love") instrumentally and Dean Martin ("Memories Are Made of This") with guest Gayle. A commercial consideration perhaps, but, done well.
"Talent" is a word with a fascinating, ancient etymology. Originally, it meant currency, and with Crystal Nights, Patten demonstrates that he has a king's riches to share and does so magnanimouslyBuddy Rich's allergies notwithstanding.
Track Listing: Ready for the Time to Get Better; Bussin' to Memphis; I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry; Freedom Song; Finally; Crystal Nights; And Sinatra Sang Our Song; True & Tried; Little Friend; I Don't Have the Heart to Say Goodbye; Can't Help Falling in Love; One More Goodbye; Memories Are Made of This.
Personnel: Jay Patten: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, woodsounds flute, mandolin, guitar, keyboards, vocals (4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 19); Catherine Marx: keyboards; Andy Reiss: guitar; Mike Loudermilk: guitar; John Kearns: steel guitar (5); Toni Sehulster: bass; Ric Lonow: drums; Christos: vocal (1); Crystal Gayle: vocal (13).
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.