The three constant principals in this remarkable quartet are joined for this album by NY-resident Ugonna Okegwo on double bass. The quartet has been in existence for over a decade now and their first album was recorded in 2007 and released in 2008. The punningly titled Heaven Steps To Seven is the quartet's seventh album to date and the follow-up to Sleight Of Hand (Whirlwind, 2017).
Half way through Charlie Parker's "Cheryl" the piece is transformed, almost magically, into something completely different, and within its core, seamlessly transmuting from be-bop to modal, with the outro head an amalgamation of the two forms. Horace Silver's ballad "Peace" is given the lightest of touches by the quartet, faithfully reinventing the standard.
"If I Should Lose You" gives the lie to the assumption that the NYSQ is "merely" a standards ensemble. This is patently wrong since everything they touch turns to musical gold. Tim Armacost's soaring soprano lines and Gene Jackson's sensitively powerful drumming could easily be compared with Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams in Miles Davis's most famous quintet. This is even more noticeable on the quartet's interpretation of Herbie Hancock's timeless classic "Eye Of The Hurricane." David Berkman's free-flowing piano runs emulate the light touches of the maestro without recourse to stylistic plagiarism. Much the same alchemical process is found on the deconstruction of Cole Porter's "I Love You," Armacost's tenor snaking around and way beyond the melody. It may have been said before but the NYSQ don't merely revive these standards, they breathe new life into them.
Tonight; Cheryl; Peace; If I Should Lose You; Every Time We Say Goodbye; I Love You; I'll Keep Loving You; Eye of the Hurricane.
Tim Armacost: tenor & soprano saxophones; David Berkman: piano; Ugonna Okegwo: double bass; Gene Jackson: drums.
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