Bassist Thomson Kneeland leads an impressive array of musicians on Mazurka For A Modern Man. It's a strong collection of tunes, characterised by Kneeland's lively bass rhythms and by the gorgeous melodies that emanate from David Smith's trumpet and Nate Radley's guitar.
Kneeland's liner notes make it clear that this album is dedicated to his band mate and friend, the drummer Take Toriyama, who took his own life barely 2 weeks after recording was completed in 2007. Toriyama's suicide clearly devastated Kneeland, who writes that the drummer was "not at his best" during recording. However, the bassist decided that Toriyama's work should be heard and it was a wise decision. If this was a man not at his best, then Toriyama's best must have been something to hear. Certainly there are times when his drumming lacks a certain verve, but in the main the percussion here is impressive and vibrant"Dithyramb" offers a particularly strong example.
Smith and Radley give the album a real sense of humanityboth players produce some exceedingly joyous and welcoming sounds with their duet on "Nebuchadnezzar" and their solos on "Rhapsody" being especially effective. On four tracks they are joined in the front line by alto player Loren Stillman, who adds his own warm and welcoming tone to tunes such as the powerful "Libretto." Kneeland leads a completely different line-up on "Moja Tesknota," a traditional Polish tune. The title means "My Longing" and the tune reflects this sentiment with the trumpet of Jerry Sabatini and the strings of Eric Bindman creating an affecting sense of loss.
Although the sad death of Toriyama casts its shadow over this album, there is an overwhelmingly positive feel to this recording that has much to do with the humanity of the playing. On his website Kneeland declares his love for vinyl. The considered and beautiful packaging and the warmth of the music on Mazurka For A Common Man make it a prime candidate for a vinyl releaseand hopefully Kneeland, Smith, Radley and Stillman have much more music to come.
Ashlayah; Hyperion; Mazurka For A Modern Man; Dithyramb; Moja Tesknota (for Deborah Zelazny); Libretto; Nebuchadnezzar; Rhapsody (For Take Toriyama); Crus Bifurcatus.
Thomson Kneeland: acoustic bass; Take Toriyama: drums and percussion; Nate Radley: guitar; David Smith: trumpet; Loren Stillman: alto saxophone (1, 4, 6, 9); Jerry Sabatini: trumpet (5); Evan Harlan: accordion (5); Eric Bindman: violin and viola (5); Mike Connors: drums (5).