"The Jazz Mainstream" is a sub-genre that has, by necessity, changed with the music's evolution. During the 1910s and '20s, New Orleans and Chicago ruled the mainstream, while the '30s and '40s belonged to big band swing. With the twilight of the big bands, combos shrunk to quartet and quintet size and bebop burned brightly in the late '40s and early '50s, maybe not becoming the mainstream, but setting it up by sparking the cool movement and hard bop of the '50s and '60s. It was the assimilation of these two movements that became what might be considered the jazz mainstream today. When the popular media chooses a jazz soundtrack, it is the smoky, small-club noir sound heard on the likes of Miles Davis
' first great quintet or Oliver Nelson
's The Blues and The Abstract Truth
(Impulse!, 1961). When this music is heard, there is no mistaking that it is jazz.
In the second decade of the 21st Century, what might be considered "Jazz Mainstream"? A strong case could be made for trumpeter Jason Klobnak's Mountain, Move
. Firmly established in the vein of hard bop, Klobnak has assembled a traditional hard bop quintet of a rhythm section fronted with trumpet and tenor saxophone. His compositions are very much in the sub-genre's mold with complex yet melodic heads followed by integrated solo space. What Klobnak brings new to the table are pieces more carefully arranged, avoiding the freewheeling blowing session characteristic of the '50s and '60s. That live type of recording had its place in jazz's evolution but now gives way to a more thoughtful production paradigm that has manifested ever since.
Klobnak's music reveals careful study of all that has come before. His compositions possess razor precision, placing emphasis on his pieces' harmonic underpinnings, affording a solid ground upon which to solo. The opening "Back and Forth" is based on a breezy give-and-take theme that transforms seamlessly into a sonic palette from which the soloist (Klobnak, pianist Jonathan Parker
and bassist Ian Hutchison
) can fully expand their musical ideas into all corners of the composition. The title piece takes elements of David Sanborn
's brand of R&B, the Crusaders
' churchy approach to ballads, and the Saturday Night Live
"Closing Theme (A Waltz in A)," by Howard Shore. Klobnak masterfully uses the music's drama to build an impressive climax and coda. And so goes the rest of the recording.
Klobnak's ear is very acute in guiding his aural vision of jazz. Mountain, Move
is an exceptional recording that bristles with creativity and inventiveness, all within the confines of consonant jazz.