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Noah Preminger: Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground

Mark Corroto By

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Saxophonist Noah Preminger got this backwards. His latest release, Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground should have preceded the 2015 recording Pivot: Live At The 55 Bar. Same quartet of trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Kim Cass, and drummer Ian Froman. Same theme, the Delta Blues. The reverse order observation is a historical one. Where John Coltrane would record an album of shortish compositions, then take them to the Village Vanguard to expand them to album length tracks, Preminger does the opposite. Pivot comprised just two 30-minute-plus performances. Switching the timing of the two releases would definitely have garnered more attention for Pivot. Nonetheless, new listeners should start here to fully appreciate the beauty of that masterly workout.

Preminger's decision to return to the Delta blues was a wise one. His tenor sound reminds you of a young Joe Lovano with hints of Dewey Redman. He's playing roots music. Never mind that he's an Northeast Coast performer, his soul inhabits that of a Delta bluesman. His version of "Trouble In Mind" transports the ear back to Archie Shepp and Horace Parlan's 1980 Steeplechase recording of the same name. Like Shepp, he teases out the most valuable essence of a song. With Palmer's plaintive trumpet, the pair sound very much alone together.

The material here has served as the inspiration for jazz musicians from Duke Ellington to Ornette Coleman. If you listen to Charles Mingus, you know he always came back to the blues, as did Coltrane. Preminger stripped down each piece to its essence. Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Black Snake Moan" field holler is transported to New Orleans with the blending of horns. "I Shall Not Be Moved" by Mississippi John Hurt takes us into the sanctified church, as both Palmer and Preminger preach the gospel of the blues. Theirs is a very modern performance of vintage material. Palmer's trumpet is capable of all the musical agility of a Dave Douglas or Nate Wooley. His artistry comes from his sympathetic playing and the ability to fit hand-in-glove with Preminger. Listen to "Hard Times Killin' Floor Blues," and the ear asks you to believe the pair are just one voice.

Each piece here begs for extended improvisations. Maybe Preminger should consider releasing 30-minute renditions of each track.

Track Listing: Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground; Hard Times Killin’ Floor Blues; Trouble In Mind; I Am The Heavenly Way; Future blues; Spoonful Blues; Black Snake Moan; Love In Vain; I Shall Not Be Moved.

Personnel: Noah Preminger: saxophone; Jason Palmer: trumpet; Kim Cass: bass; Ian Froman: drums.

Title: Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced

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