Hard Chesky Boppin': Mysterious Shorter & New York Time

Greg Thomas By

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Payton/Belden/Yahel/ Hart/Drummond
Mysterious Shorter

New York Time

"To me, music has a sense of velocity," Wayne Shorter once said. "There's also a sense of mystery, but then everything in life is mysterious." On Mysterious Shorter, five musicians well-versed in Shorter's compositional universe interpret the many elliptical yet grooving moods of a modern jazz master.

Saxophonist Bob Belden's arrangements of tunes recorded by Shorter from 1964-74 maintains the melodic integrity of originals such as "Footprints," "Witch Hunt" and "Tom Thumb" but veers away from strict imitation. The same cannot be said of his playing here, which in its likeness to Shorter's more languorous performance style demonstrates that mimesis can be a sincere form of flattery.

Nicholas Payton's trumpet playing also evinces the Shorter improvisational influence, when in the midst of a brash brass double-time run flow those descents of layered hesitation for which Shorter is known. Payton's playing has cooled from his earlier fiery blow-the-rooftops-off approach and his ballad feature, "Teru," is a wonder of tasty blowing.

Sam Yahel's Hammond B3 organ provides the underlying mood of the proceedings, with swells and chord progressions that give the impression of swimming underwater. This is especially true of his church-like meditative opening on the modal "Masquelero," soon joined by electric guitarist John Hart's ruminations and Billy Drummond's highhat drum reflections. After Belden and Payton state the melody Payton, Belden and Hart have passionate and dramatic instrumental conversations with Drummond. The drummer is the star with a versatility ranging from back beat grooves to 7/4 time to tender accents to straight ahead swing.

New York Time is the name of a new quartet (and album) comprised of pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Christian McBride, tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson and drummer Jimmy Cobb and is the the third Chesky release in a series called the "New York Sessions." Chesky is noted in the industry for its one-mic recording approach, used for these sessions in Saint Peter's Church and the result is a sound that harkens back to the best Blue Note recordings.

All except for Cobb bring compositions, the best unsurprisingly by Cedar Walton. The group establishes a strong groove from the getgo on his "Newest Blues," with McBride taking a woody, fleet-fingered solo, accompanied sympathetically by Cobb's rim shots. When Walton comes in with his characteristic flowing sophistication, the group rises to the challenges of swing with aplomb.

Walton's "Sixth Avenue" begins with a gospel-tinged intro that morphs into a pretty bossa number that maintains its soul jazz connotations at the melody's end. The group's easy relaxation is constant throughout but intensity rises to the surface on the burning "My Shining Hour."

Jackson's full tone and fluidity on his horn hold up well among his generation of saxophonists and his playing on Coltrane's "Naima" tugs at the heart. His "Notes in Three" (3/4 time) indicates a flair for composition and his "Diane" succeeds as a ballad and his solo here is perhaps his strongest on the recording.

Benny Golson's "Whisper Not" is given an elegant, laid-back rendering that typifies what time and space could be like in New York if all here had the passion, individual skill and group cohesion of New York Time. It's a utopic vision for sure, but the magic of jazz as found here makes one believe in the possibilities of triumph over the rude, crass and indifferent behavior we find on occasion on the streets of the Big Apple.

Tracks and Personnel

Mysterious Shorter

Tracks: Montezuma; Tom Thumb; Footprints; Teru; Witch Hunt; Masqalero; Beauty and the Beast; Miyako.

Personnel: Nicholas Payton: trumpet; Bob Belden: soprano and tenor saxophone; Sam Yahel: Hammond B3 organ; John Hart: electric guitar; Billy Drummond: drums.

New York Time

Tracks: Newest Blues; Sixth Avenue; My Shining Hour; Notes in Three; In the Kitchen; Naima; Grove; Whisper Not; Diane; Mode for Joe.

Personnel: Christian McBride: bass; Javon Jackson: tenor sax; Jimmy Cobb: drums; Cedar Walton: piano.


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