What to listen for in a recording curated by a veteran producer that features a group of young, up-and-coming musicians with skillsets rooted in the bop, hard bop and modal continuum? When the styles are familiar, it's best to start with the material. If the tunes routinely sound like they're made of parts lifted from the classic and near classic jazz repertoire, it sets a negative tone for the rest of the record, sometimes even offsetting the strength of the individual performances. On the other hand, the wheel doesn't have to be reinvented; something new and novel isn't imperative or necessarily desirable. Signs that the composer has initiated the formidable process of moving beyond formative influences and showing some flashes of individuality are often sufficient to pique one's interest. New Sounds
, a recording by the second configuration of musicians under the name New Faces, doesn't play it safe by offering a program of jazz standards and Great American Songbook favorites. Produced by Marc Free for the Posi-Tone imprint, the record features at least one composition written by each member of the sextet, plus songs by Behn Gillece
and Peter Brendler, both of whom participated in the inaugural New Faces recording.
While all of the material is serviceable, a few selections stand out. Trumpeter Brandon Lee
's "Shades of Brown" and bassist Adi Meyerson's "Afloat" feature elegant melodies and imaginative, well-crafted arrangements that utilize a three-horn front line. Exuding sorrow and defiance in equal measure, tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover
's "Blues For Tangier" leaves plenty room for querulous remarks by pianist Caili O'Doherty
and the horns, including alto saxophonist Markus Howell.
It's unrealistic to expect recognizable and fully evolved styles from a band of musicians in the early stages of their careers. Consider the staggering amount of information from numerous jazz approaches and influences to be understood and integrated into a whole; decisions about what kind of improviser one wants to be; and the search for appropriate places and peers with whom to perform and progress; these are only a few of the trials faced by jazz men and women in their quest for a unique voice. Instead of making unreasonable comparisons to the music's iconic figures, perhaps it's better to ask if each of New Faces' four primary soloists has enough to say at this juncture in his or her development to merit seeking them out in the future and monitoring their progress.
Based on the evidence contained in the ten tracks of New Sounds
, Lee, Howell, O'Doherty and Glover merit additional scrutiny. Eschewing any devices that would take him outside of the rhythm section's orbit, during "Shades of Brown" Lee fashions a lucid narrative out of clipped phrases. Howell doesn't hurry over the changes of Gillece's hard bopping "Whistleblower." His edgy tone conveys a sense of urgency, and brief pauses bring everything he plays into even sharper focus. It isn't so much that O'Doherty brings something new to the soul-jazz of Brander's "Stop Gap," as much as she makes the genre's well-trodden vocabulary sound fresh and vital. Glover's chorus on "Blues For Tangier" is a stunning mash-up of familiar blues devices and the jazz saxophone dialect from the 1960s and beyond. Such an unrelenting approach in which nothing is allowed to settle courts disorder, yet in the end it feels like the product of an orderly disposition. New Sounds
is noteworthy for the gratification it provides in the here and now, as well as serving as a source of talented, industrious players to watch for in the future.
Shades Of Brown; Whistleblower; Afloat; Stop Gap; Hold My Heart; Second Wind; Blues For Tangier; Luna Lovejoy; Runaway; Trapezoid