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Released in 1997 on the modern-free jazz label, Rastacan Records, Gurney To The Lincoln Center Of Your Mind by Graham Connah’s “Sour Note Seven is a recording that deserves some honorable mention and widespread exposure. Northern California based keyboard whiz-composer, Graham Connah is firmly entrenched within the vanguard of “new jazz”, which embodies multidimensional and hybrid musical elements. These refreshing and extremely thought-provoking approaches have spawned a new generation of jazz musicians who are making their collective marks within jazz communities Stateside and abroad.
Connah’s Gurney To The Lincoln Center Of Your Mind is an ambitious project as the amusing title would suggest. A musical “journey” is the reality here, contrasting the inference of a pushcart or carriage. Connah and his explosive band may not fit the profile of the predominately conservative Lincoln Center music hall yet the matter at hand presides within this exceptional project.
Connah’s humorously titled compositions as in the opener, “Trudge Gelatinous” are tightly arranged, complex and often linear in scope with plenty of depth and room for solo space. In “Trudge Gelatinous”, Connah utilizes huge block chords, circular motion as in chord progressions and provides texture. Here, cutting edge clarinetist Ben Goldberg injects a sense of pathos, which offsets the bristling arrangement. Connah’s compositions and arrangements can be whimsical, suspenseful and animated yet the themes, rhythms and ensemble work are generally forward moving. The diverse musical flow continues with “Ondine” as vocalist Jewlia Eisenberg adds some spice and color with scat-like, melodic vocals. Eisenberg generally sings along with the often complex thematic movements yet melody is fairly abundant here and throughout most of these pieces. “Ondine” develops into a free-for-all as Connah reaffirms the pulsing rhythms with his Hammond B-3 which emphasizes the intensity of the extremely badass rhythm section of Trevor Dunn (b) and Elliot Humberto Kavee (d). “Nutcases Unison”, features exhilarating solos from clarinetist Ben Goldberg, wunderkind bassist Trevor Dunn and Connah. Here, the meticulous yet “modern” sounding horn arrangement radiates a “little big band” feel with plenty of peaks, valleys and plain old ingenuity. The ensemble take us for a roller coaster ride on the affable and foot stomping’ “Tiddlywinks”. Connah and Company rip through a John Phillip Sousa style March which progresses into modern Bop and reverts to a quasi Dixieland motif. This piece should satisfy all the hipsters with its cool approach along with Ms. Eisenberg’s vocal pyrotechnics. On “Tiddlywinks” saxophonist Rob Sudduth shows his goods over a weaving New Orleans style shufflebeat. At times, this piece takes on a childlike or playful demeanor. “Ham n’ Soda” features light hearted vocals over a crisp, melodic horn arrangement. On this composition, drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee and trombonist Marty Wehner stretch out in swinging fashion.
All told, Gurney To The Lincoln Center Of Your Mind is strikingly unique, refreshingly modern, uncompromising yet most of all is thoroughly entertaining. *****
Graham Connah; Piano, Organ: Ben Goldberg; Clarinet: Rob Sudduth; Saxes: Marty Wehner; Trombone: Jewlia Eisenberg; Vocals: Trevor Dunn; Bass: Elliot Humberto Kaveel; Drums.