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Ron Oswanski: December's Moon

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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With the possible exception of "love" and "you," "moon" enters as a most-welcomed word-muse to performers, composers and lyricists. When "jazz organ" enters into that equation, the expected aural summation might be the blues-infused funk of Jimmy Smith or the steamy straight-ahead of Joey DeFrancesco.

December's Moon from multi-keyboardist/composer—and now leader—Ron Oswanski, is a performance surprise that's full-moon bright and thoroughly invigorating. It's a predominantly organ-centric excursion across a series of contemporary-flavored originals and surprisingly-selected established compositions that soars.

Oswanski, a valued sideman with Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau, trumpeter Carl Fischer's Organic Grooves, Organik Vibe Trio and others, takes command here musically and compositionally. Performing with flair on organ, accordion and piano and backed by an outstanding team well-acquainted in the style, Oswanski solidifies himself as a most able explorer—and composer— of more contemporary material in the ECM vein.

Guitarist John Abercrombie, no stranger to that genre, brings significant gravitas to this fine effort without overshadowing his mates. Saxophonist Tim Ries delivers interpretations with superb lyrical, dynamic shadings. Jay Azzolina's guitar, while Abercrombie-inspired, is an original and welcomed voice and bassist John Patituccilays down a solid foundation. Drummers Clarence Penn and Ian Froman energize the material by way of solid communication with the ensemble and soloists.

The shrewdly-chosen selections are drawn from diverse sources ranging from jazz to the rock worlds—Kenny Wheeler's "Kayak" and Led Zepplin's "Rain Song," for example. Oswanski scripts seven intriguing tunes that provide gorgeous platforms for the multi-layered interpretations: "Milk of the Moon" and the hands-down killer title cut.

Never neglected by any jazz organist, there's straight-ahead ("80-80- 8," "Standard Tile") where Oswanski demonstrates he can cook with the more celebrated chefs in the organ kitchen. His accordion is a perfect sonic touch, fitting seamlessly on "Solo Por Undia" and the exotically-flavored "Ukrania Polka." His approach on that axe is—as on all three instruments (piano on "Evanessence")—highly expressive. He avoids cliché and obnoxious "Lady of Spain" technique displays.

While Nature's December's Moon might portend a deep, dark winter ahead, December's Moon augurs a beautifully poetic performance experience from a stellar musician and his shining supporting stars.

Track Listing: White Meadow; Solo Por Undia; December's Moon; Ukrania Polka; Mercury Retrograde; The Rain Song; Sleeping Beauty; 80-80-8; Milk of the Moon; Standard Tile; Kayak; Evanessence.

Personnel: Ron Oswanski: Hammand B-3 Organ, piano, accordian; Tim Ries: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; John Abercrombie: electric guitar (1, 5, 8, 9, 11); Jay Azzolina: accoustic guitar, electric guitar (2, 4, 6); John Patitucci: bass; Clarence Penn: drums, percussion (2-4, 6, 12); Ian Froman: drums (1, 5, 7-10).

Title: December's Moon | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

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