While this CD contains some fine straight-ahead jazz by a group of excellent musicians, the name of the group, The Antfarm Quartet, combined with cover photos of the group hanging out on a cloudy day at the beach and seen through the window of a diner, evokes a connotation of funk and grunge. Just as ants do their work tirelessly without a leader, this dedicated group has no designated leader. However, more like a bee hive than an ant farm, the entire album is dominated by the singing of the multi-talented Paul Jost.
The only "grungy thing about this otherwise mainstream recording is Jost's voice. This is not a criticism; it is a categorization. Jost belongs to two classes of jazz vocalists: those like Chet Baker, Jon Hendricks, Kurt Elling, and J.D. Walter, who utilize scat and vocalise(Baker was an exception), rhythm, and inflections to convey a sharp "instrumental and "existential feel; and those like Satchmo (Louis Armstrong), Louis Prima, and Jimmy Durante, whose gravelly voices we constantly forgive because they communicate something important musicallya grunt by Armstrong was worth a thousand notes; Prima caught something of the Italo-American soul; and Durante's version of "I'll Be Seeing You (In All the Old Familiar Places) and other songs conveyed a deep pathos.
At first, Jost's slightly disturbing vocal persona of a pleading loser is off-putting. But within a short time, the listener becomes absorbed in his highly intelligent, richly emotive, and musically sophisticated renditions of several standards and two originals"Sun on My Hands and "Dialogues, Pt. 2, by band-members Jim Ridl and Tim Lekan respectively. Jost uses rhythm and dynamics to great effect to evoke the variety of moods suggested by the tunes, and the degree of swinging force that such a human "failure can bring to the music is surprising.
As always, Ridl's piano playing is superb throughout. "Sun on My Hands, from his CD Door in a Field (Dreambox Media, 2003) is lyrical and sensitive. Throughout Dialgoues Pt. 2, he livens things up with assertive comping and brilliant solos. Ridl is one of the most remarkable and creative jazz pianists on the scene. Bassist Tim Lekan and drummer Bob Shlomo stay mostly in the background, but they provide both interesting ideas and outstanding rhythmic support. The entire group shines on Joe Henderson's bebop tune "Tetragon, a stimulating composition that deserves to be performed much more often.
This album is going appeal both to seasoned lovers of mainstream jazz and younger audiences who like their music with a touch of twisted-ness. Its singular virtue is the way it synthesizes these two idioms and makes something interesting out of the mix.
The Days of Wine and Roses; Centerpiece; Sun on My Hands; Let Me Call You Sweetheart; Dialogues, Pt. 2; And I Love Her; Put on a Happy Face; I Didn
Tim Lekan: bass; Paul Jost: vocals, harmonica, guitar; Bob Shomo: drums; Jim Ridl: piano, keyboard.
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