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Album Review

John Lang: Now Ear This

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John Lang: Now Ear This
For what it is, bassist John Lang's fourth album, Now Ear This, is quite well done. For jazz fans, the dilemma lies there, precisely in what it is—a series of eleven rock/fusion themes, nine written by Lang, which would be right at home on a smooth jazz/easy listening radio station, for example, but whose jazz content would earn them no more than a tenuous place on any playlist beyond that. Tempos are more or less proximate, as is the steady and insistent backbeat. There is some improvisation but none that rises above the level of ordinary, aside perhaps from a handful of engaging licks by trumpeter Dan Blankinship and tenor saxophonist Tim Armacost, and animated solos by all hands on the album's lone flat-out swinger, "Sis Boom Bah."

The album was recorded in two "sessions," with five songs performed by a quartet, six by an octet. Armacost is on the octet's front line with Blankinship, alto Ken Gioffre and trombonist Matthew MacDonald, and a rhythm section comprised of Lang, guitarist Jay Azzolina, pianist Gary Fisher and drummer John Romagnoli. Within the quartet, Lang's partners are pianist Matthew Sheens, guitarist Avi Rothbard and drummer Mike Campenni. As noted, Lang wrote every number save Curtis Mayfield's "Pusherman" and Wes Montgomery's "Four on Six."

Lang's funky opener, "The Town of Tiny Rooms," performed by the quartet, sets the mood, leading to a second quartet number, "Scarborough Cha," before the octet enters on the swarthy "Triolation" and relatively sunny "Without Doubt." The quartet returns on "Addendum," then makes way for the octet on "Four on Six," "Well Done" and "The Night Watch." The swinging "Sis Boom Bah" precedes the earnest finale, "Won by One," whose introductory vocal—if one can call it that—is offered by one Milo Lang, presumably John Lang's (pre-school?) son. Welcome to show biz, kid. You've made your debut on an album that has no doubt reached its goal. It remains for the listener to decide whether that goal has enough jazz content to warrant more than a passing glance.

Track Listing

The Town of Tiny Rooms; Scarborough Cha; Trioation; Without Doubt; Addendum; Pusherman; On^ (Four on Six); Well Done; The Night Watch; Sis Boom Bah; Won by One.

Personnel

John Lang: bass; Avi Rothbard: guitar; Matthew Sheens: piano; Mike Campenni: drums; Dan Blankinship: trumpet; Ken Gioffre: saxophone, alto; Tim Armacost: saxophone, tenor; Matthew MacDonald: trombone; Jay Azzolina: guitar; Gary Fisher: piano; John Romagnoli: drums; Jason DeBord: keyboards; Milo Lang: voice / vocals.

Additional Instrumentation

Session 1: Avi Rothbard: guitar; Matthew Sheens: piano; John Lang: bass; Mike Campenni: drums. Session 2: Dan Blankinship: trumpet; Ken Gioffre: alto sax; Tim Armacost: tenor sax; Matthew MacDonald: trombone; Jay Azzolina: guitar; Gary Fisher: piano; John Lang: bass; John Romagnoli: drums. Over-dub crew—Lang: keyboards; Romagnoli: percussion; Jason DeBord: Hammond organ; Milo Lang: vocal (11).

Album information

Title: Now Ear This | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Self Produced


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