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Michael Feinberg: Hard Times


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Michael Feinberg: Hard Times
Although the Covid pandemic has been devastating to the artistic community, and certainly jazz musicians are no exception, albums like Michael Feinberg's Hard Times point to the possibility of hopeful resilience. With a top-shelf bunch of colleagues and smart compositions with rhythmically crafty arrangements, the bassist's eighth release is a winner, with a plucky spirit and satisfying grooves in abundance.

Feinberg pulled this band together in October 2020, and with folks like drummer Jeff Tain Watts and pianist Orrin Evans, not to mention a guest spot from trumpeter Randy Brecker, there's plenty of noteworthy talent on display. Although the album art has a "Wild West" vibe, complete with bandanas and sagebrush, and images of the band members worthy of any Spaghetti Western, the music itself is straight-up mainstream jazz with a heavy dose of fusion and funk.

Pairing Evans with keyboardist Leo Genovese was one of Feinberg's smart choices: the additional keys lend heft and enhance the groove of Feinberg compositions like "Janky in the Middle," a sinuous piece built around an infectious bass ostinato, or the funked-out "Monkeys Never Cramp." Both musicians also get some terrific solo opportunities on the record. Evans is a standout on "Nardis," one of the covers here that Feinberg arranges quite artfully, with a clever double-time segment in the chorus. Genovese is no slouch himself, however, with a riveting keyboard solo on the Latin-tinged version of McCoy Tyner's "Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit."

In addition, Feinberg has a fine horn section, courtesy of tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger, alto saxophonist Godwin Louis and trumpeter Billy Buss. Buss' torrid solo on "Nardis" is one of the highlights of the album, and elsewhere the horns' harmonies add depth to tracks like "Every. Damn. Day. (Burn It Down Blues)," a simmering track with a dark urgency. Brecker's lone appearance on "Monkeys Never Cramp" certainly doesn't disappoint either, with just the right balance of fire and grace. And with percussionist Gabriel Globus-Hoenich working alongside Watts to sustain each track's momentum and navigate the music's many rhythmic shifts, the band's cohesiveness never wavers. Even the title-track closer, with its relaxed down-home feel, provides enough positivity to make the "Hard Times" not seem quite so hard.

Track Listing

Introduction; Nardis; The Husafell Stone; Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit; Three Flowers; Janky in the Middle; Every. Damn. Day; Lauren’s Song; Monkeys Never Cramp; Outro; Hard Times.


Additional Instrumentation

Gabriel Globus-Hoenich: percussion; Randy Brecker: trumpet (9).

Album information

Title: Hard Times | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Fresh Sound Records

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