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James Carney Group: Green-Wood

Jerry D'Souza By

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James Carney cites a long and varied line of influences on his music that includes Henry Threadgill, Keith Emerson, Steve Reich and Bill Monroe. That's an eclectic mix, and all have a certain bearing on his compositions.

Carney, who won the 1999 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Composers Award, composes music in his head and then writes it down. That gives him a clearer picture of the direction he wants and also makes it easier to change.

The compositions on Green-Wood are a mixed bag of the old and new. Some were created and developed over several years; others are of more recent vintage. They were played in different combinations with members of this band before Carney wrote the arrangements with this septet in mind.

Carney pours several styles into the melting pot of his compositions. It's free-for-all on "Power, as tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby infuses a broad swath of notes to sit atop Carney's analog synthesizer. The notes float around and about as bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Mark Ferber keep the pulse. The disparate statements are cleared as a melody emerges from Peter Epstein's soprano saxophone. The whole atmosphere has changed; the band is now in a groove. The shifts in timbre are in evidence right through. Carney makes sure his arrangements give the soloists room and they take advantage, opening the door to a wellspring of ideas.

Carney orchestrates "Shame on the synthesizer, gradually upping the tension. Again it's Malaby who inveigles in, but Carney comes back to envelop both Malaby and Ferber in the tumult. The density of the instrumentation and the surge of the dynamics work well before it comes to rest on the lonely cry of the synthesizer.

Half the Battle begins as an up-tempo, sparkling tune. But given Carney's characterization of his music, the tempo shifts ebb and flow. Carney, on piano, and Malaby move it into the mainstream with solid support from the rhythm section. Ralph Alessi cues in on trumpet, his lines cohesive and buoyant, turning this into a fine ensemble effort.


Track Listing: Power; Smog Cutter; It

Personnel: Peter Epstein: soprano saxophone; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Josh Roseman: trombone; James Carney: acoustic and electric pianos, analog synthesizer and orchestra bells; Chris Lightcap: bass; Mark Ferber: drums.

Title: Green-Wood | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings

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