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It wouldn't be unusual to think that the mastermind behind Mazurka For A Modern Man played trumpet or guitar. While bassist Thomson Kneeland wrote eight of these compositions, which touch on everything from Balkan folk music and klezmer, to chamber music and indie rock, he often lurks in the background while guitarist Nate Radley and trumpeter David Smith paint intriguing pictures and create a deep, and occasionally dark, musical universe in the foreground. Kneeland, as demonstrated throughout this album, is clearly a man of many talents and he uses his diverse musical interests to shape each track to suit his musical vision.
A Masada-like, klezmer sound is present on the album-opening "Ashlayah." While Smith and alto saxophonist Loren Stillman take on the Dave Douglas and John Zorn roles hereand in a few other places on the albumStillman is far less aggressive than Zorn often is and Radley's guitar adds a different dimension to the music. Two vastly different pieces on this album take their titles from Greek mythology. "Hyperion" is a trumpet-lead trip through a musical purgatory, with Radley setting the eerie mood, while "Dithyramb" is an Indian-influenced thrill ride with strong soloing from Stillman and Kneeland.
While the title track shows off Kneeland's strong attempt at infusing modernist jazz with a grunge-meets-emo vibe, he demonstrates a completely different side of his personality on "Moja Tesknota (For Deborah Zelazny)." This traditional Polish songwhich is also the only track here that Kneeland didn't writefeatures strings and accordion, but the trumpet steals the show as it cries somber strains over the rest of the band. One of Kneeland's most introspective pieces of music is "Rhapsody (For Take Toriyama)," which was dedicated to the late drummer who performed on this album. The drummer, sadly, took his own life several weeks after the recording and this piece, along with the album as a whole, serves as a fitting tribute to Take Toriyama and his creative, musical spirit.
Track Listing: Ashlayah; Hyperion; Mazurka For A Modern Man; Dithyramb; Moja Tesknota (for Deborah Zelazny); Libretto; Nebuchadnezzar; Rhapsody (For Take Toriyama); Crus Bifurcatus.
Personnel: 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).
I was first exposed to jazz while learning to play chess with my uncles. They would play smooth jazz, and then switch up to more standard types of jazz. But, when they played Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, I was
hooked and I haven't looked back.