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The band's appellation might be Human Feel, but after over 30 years of recording and performing together, maybe the quartet of saxophonists Andrew D'Angelo and Chris Speed, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and drummer Jim Black should change their name to 'Super Hero Feel.' Just like a comic book franchise, when this quartet reconvenes, there is going to be some turbulence before triumph. The quartet's coming together this time is after 12 years without releasing a full-length album. The wait was certainly worth it.
The composition duties are spread among the four, with a single group-improvised piece, "Lights Out," where the music mimes a manhunt with searing upper-register alto from D'Angelo, paired with low-end tenor snorts and hoots from Speed, over Black's eerie synth effects and Rosenwinkel's shadowy guitar work. Where this piece works as an open composition, elsewhere the tautness of writing and arrangements always surrenders to solos and improvisation.
"Alar Vome" opens as chamber music (two horns and a guitar) before Black crashes drums and cymbals, opening the throttle on this jet engine. The quartet can go from Satie to Ayler in the blink of an eye. A similar motif is heard on Rosenwinkel's "Bass Place." The bulk of the music revolves around an ethereal. fragile soundscape that u-turns into a slice of shock-and-awe thunder. The quartet's concepts are successful because this music is a coming together of four distinctive voices. "G_D" mines a sound from the early new wave of sixties jazz, with D'Angelo's soulful vocalized alto sowing seeds that are watered with gospel guitar, and eventually paired with Speed's clarinet. The raw transforms into a realized rejoicing. Elsewhere are their bits of rock such as "Stina Blues," the wily chicken-pecking of "Numer," and the tasty "Martens," where Rosenwinkel opens with some luscious strumming that is accented by the gentlest hands of Black. Amazingly, these superheroes have saved the day once again.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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