All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

2

Black Diamond: Mandala

Samuel Stroup By

Sign in to view read count
It's easy to see how Chicago quartet Black Diamond fit right into the sax / sax / bass / drums tradition in jazz. In fact, with the intricate and energetic compositions, speedy and flawless solos, and evocative song titles this group's first album Mandala almost feels like a passing of the torch from the likes of similarly instrumented quartets like Endangered Blood and Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth. Even Dave Holland's Conference of the Birds comes to mind on occasion throughout Mandala, especially during the solo sections on tunes like "Eleanor and Rofus," as bassist Matt Ulery and drummer Neil Hemphill leisurely comp the and saxophonists Artie Black and Hunter Diamond's harmoniously cooperative, back-and-forth soloettes.

The two horn players split the songwriting duty down the middle, each one composing 3 tunes on his own as well as 3 co-written ones that bookend the album. The CD, released on Minneapolis label Shifting Paradigm, features "6 years of composition," as the group's website states, a time that was most certainly well spent. The tenor players' musical relationship comes through in their playing, and the record captures the sound of a friendship. Their ever so slight uniqueness of tone is complemented by their shared understanding of time and their effort to attain the same mood with each composition. The saxophones serenade each other like two best friends endlessly delighted by the simple joy of each other's company.

The sidemen play their roles as such expertly, laying down crisp foundations, the perfect settings for Black and Diamonds' solos to blossom. Ulery plays lively and lyrical lines alongside Hemphill's sometimes simple but always refined cymbal rhythms and well-placed snare hits. The last tune's title, "Little Melody" must allude to the hopping bass ostinato and the jangling percussion that accompanies it.

While the whole quartet make the most of their musical stylings and abilities, their composition is sadly no match for their playing. On "Little Melody" the bass and drums steal the focus away from the tenors, whose meandering harmonies float adrift over the track, but fail to hold most ears' interest for terribly long. The third track, "Rudy's Mood" falls short too, a bop tune performed like a jazz car chase whose many fast-paced ideas end up in a traffic jam. The standout tracks are Artie Black's tunes. His 3 compositions are well thought out and emotional. Black's mirroring sax parts and swollen, poignant harmonies are well suited for the band's dynamic.

While the Mandala compositions leave room for future improvement, the record is exuberant, honest and sentimental. The Black Diamond friendship is old, but the band is young, and with any luck, the group will give their fans more to enjoy in the future.

Track Listing: Track Name #1; Jim Jam on the Veranda #1; The Middle Way #2; Rudy's Mood #3; Eleanor & Rufus #4; Jacunda #5; Mandala #6; Village Within the City #7; Clay Feet #8; Little Melody #9.

Personnel: Artie Black #1: Tenor Saxophone; Hunter Diamond #2: Tenor Saxophone; Matt Ulery #3: Bass; Neil Hemphill #4: Drums.

Title: Mandala | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Shifting Paradigm Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Mandala

Mandala

Shifting Paradigm Records
2017

buy

Related Articles

Read Dreams And Other Stories CD/LP/Track Review
Dreams And Other Stories
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 22, 2018
Read The Nook CD/LP/Track Review
The Nook
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 22, 2018
Read Julius Eastman - Piano Interpretations CD/LP/Track Review
Julius Eastman - Piano Interpretations
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 22, 2018
Read Moments Before CD/LP/Track Review
Moments Before
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 22, 2018
Read From The Vault: No Security, San Jose '99 (2CD + SD Blu Ray) CD/LP/Track Review
From The Vault: No Security, San Jose '99 (2CD + SD...
by John Kelman
Published: September 22, 2018
Read with whom you can be who you are CD/LP/Track Review
with whom you can be who you are
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 21, 2018
Read "Smart Grid" CD/LP/Track Review Smart Grid
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 16, 2018
Read "Chapter 2" CD/LP/Track Review Chapter 2
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: December 21, 2017
Read "Sunlight" CD/LP/Track Review Sunlight
by Jeff Winbush
Published: April 25, 2018
Read "when the shade is stretched" CD/LP/Track Review when the shade is stretched
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 17, 2018
Read "Murphy" CD/LP/Track Review Murphy
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 18, 2017
Read "Trio Exaltation" CD/LP/Track Review Trio Exaltation
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 12, 2018