Can jazz stay the inventive course while remaining true to its swinging precedents and historical framework(s)? This record makes the argument that it can.
Toronto-based saxophonist Johnny Griffith has put together a program of original music that's firmly grounded in tradition, yet his approaches aren't rigidly dogmatic in nature; in other words, this record speaks to the past, but it's not another present-day date that's simply dressed in yesteryear's fashion(s). Slamming grooves and swing rhythms share living space ("The Kuleshascope"), nuanced exploration has its place ("Cinders"), strong personal statements can be heard throughout, and the band artfully creates and surfs the dynamic waves within this music.
On paper, this band looks like a quartet of like-minded Canadians upping the attention factor by adding a high profile outsiderAmerican trumpeter Jeremy Pelt. But in truth, Griffith and his countrymen need no help on the music end, and Pelt is a team player. He seems to be fully invested in this music, so any thoughts or worries of a big-name-phoning-it scenario are unfounded. Pelt and Griffith are well matched, though Pelt often takes a more circuitous route through his solos while Griffith prefers a more direct course of engagement, and they deliver top notch performances, whether working alone, harmonizing, moving through unison lines, or shaping phrases around one another.
The rest of the bandpianist Adrean Farrugia, bassist Jon Maharaj, and drummer Ethan Ardelliknows how to light a fire, drive a tune, or dial it back, depending on what the music calls for. Farrugia proves to be a powerful force who can speak comfortably in bluesy turns or post-bop phrases, Maharaj is a strong support player and a thoughtful soloist, and Ardelli has great range, hammering down at one moment and delivering delicate cymbal filigree the next.
On Dance With The Lady, Johnny Griffith manages to do what few artists are capable of doing successfully: he blends the styles of the past and present while projecting the attitude of today.
The Zissou Predicament; Princess Aura Goes To Phrygia; Syrah; The Kuleshascope; Bass Interlude; The Mile Walk; Dance With The Lady; Cinders; That Night.. (Under The Bench) So Long Ago.
Johnny Griffith: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Jeremy Pelt: trumpet; Adrean Farrugia: piano; Jon Maharaj: bass; Ethan Ardelli: drums.
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