3

Natalie Cressman and Secret Garden: New York, September 6, 2012

Daniel Lehner By

Sign in to view read count
Natalie Cressman and Secret Garden
DROM
New York, NY
September 6th, 2012

The trombone is not an instrument that tolerates mediocrity. Because of the instrument's many idiosyncrasies, there's no real chance for the slide instrumentalist to get caught in the purgatory of empty virtuosity often exhibited by up-and-coming guitarists and saxophonists. The practitioners who persevere to make their own sound, like the 20-year-old trombonist/vocalist Natalie Cressman, tend to go right from being decent musicians to being excellent ones. Cressman, who honed her skills both in college at the Manhattan School of Music and on the road with jam impresario Trey Anastasio, shows her knowledge of not only how to play the trombone in a unique and effective manner, but also when to play. As a composer, bandleader and vocalist, Cressman's Secret Garden was crafted to show her abilities as an improvising musician and a stylistic interpreter on her own terms.

Cressman's writing draws stylistically from a few different vantage points, sometimes even simultaneously. "Flip," the first track on Secret Garden's debut album Unfolding (Self-produced, 2012) performed to celebrate the CD's release at DROM, spent most of its time cast in the kind of hard bop urgency and soulful intricacy of sextets like Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, but the head and solos were preceded each time by a volatile 3/4 vamp recalling both hip-hop and Afro-Cuban music. "Fortune's Fool" had the other horns (trumpeter Ivan Rosenberg and tenor saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown) bustling around Cressman's pretty and conversational vocals, with harmonies that were unconventional but not jarring and complete with a pop-worthy crescendo towards the end. There was even a little bit of chamber music in the gradually shifting canon of "Waking" before it got into its soulful core.

Secret Garden also took an eclectic approach to previously recorded material. Cressman's second-generation arrangement of "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" culled inspiration from both the Charles Mingus original and the Joni Mitchell re-interpretation, mashing up complex and occasionally razor-sharp horn lines with Mitchell's portrait-like lyrics. The band's anachronistic take on Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose" was a down-tempo hip-hop rendition, which not only reached beyond the previously understood generational limit for hip-hop/jazz by about 30 years, but also chemically changed the intention of Andy Razaf's lyrics from saccharine and pining to coy and playful. Jumping several decades into the future, "Do Not As I Do," written by the relatively obscure Norwegian musician Hanne Hukkelberg, got augmented with rollicking Middle Eastern drum/bass rumbles but held strong to the integrity of the original melody.

The last element of success that Secret Garden employed was the musical prowess of its cast members. Cressman showed off a trombone sound that can only come out of jazz study, as it was naturally imbued with shades of Janice "Ms. JJ" Johnson and Slide Hampton, but it also resonated with a certain soulful angularity that comes from diversity, her upper register washed in a shimmer not unlike fellow New York slide technician Josh Roseman.

Rosenberg's trumpet was manic and flighty, but also had a compositional and melodic logic working underneath and Lefkowitz-Brown gave his best declarations of both ferocity and quietness. Bassist Martin Nevin used his fleetness to give the moving bass/piano lines a stronger dose of integrity and on the treble end of the spectrum, pianist Pascal Le Boeuf soloed with a clever outness and used Cressman's "Whistle Song" to elevate the somewhat clichéd idioms of groove jazz with dramatic darkness, a la a gothic Robert Glasper. Jake Goldbas's carefully tempered and colorful drumming worked itself into all of Secret Garden's idioms, especially during his pocket-heavy, festival-style escalation of Cressman's "That Kind" which also featured a snaky and unpredictable solo by guest Peter Apfelbuam.

Shop

More Articles

Read Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2017
by Nick Davies
Published: May 13, 2017
Read Omar Sosa At SFJAZZ Live Reviews Omar Sosa At SFJAZZ
by Walter Atkins
Published: May 13, 2017
Read Wadada Leo Smith At Firehouse 12 Live Reviews Wadada Leo Smith At Firehouse 12
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: May 11, 2017
Read Jazzahead! 2017 Live Reviews Jazzahead! 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: May 11, 2017
Read Adrian Belew Power Trio at Ardmore Music Hall Live Reviews Adrian Belew Power Trio at Ardmore Music Hall
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 10, 2017
Read Bray Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Bray Jazz Festival 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 9, 2017
Read "2016 Hope College Jazz Organ Summit" Live Reviews 2016 Hope College Jazz Organ Summit
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 28, 2016
Read "Benny Golson Quartet at Duc des Lombards" Live Reviews Benny Golson Quartet at Duc des Lombards
by Patricia Myers
Published: August 22, 2016
Read "Wadada Leo Smith At Firehouse 12" Live Reviews Wadada Leo Smith At Firehouse 12
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: May 11, 2017
Read "Jonathan Butler at Yoshi's" Live Reviews Jonathan Butler at Yoshi's
by Walter Atkins
Published: November 5, 2016
Read "Keith Oxman Quartet at Nocturne" Live Reviews Keith Oxman Quartet at Nocturne
by Douglas Groothuis
Published: March 19, 2017
Read "Barranquijazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Barranquijazz Festival 2016
by Mark Holston
Published: November 15, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, and provide read access to our future articles.