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Ben Schachter: Omnibus

Victor L. Schermer By

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Saxophonist Ben Schachter is a jazz master, well known in the Philadelphia area and beyond. On this outstanding CD, he and his cohorts go beyond playing their instruments to creating works of art. Each piece forms a coherent composition where improvisations come close to sounding like the interpretation of a written score. Heartfelt yet profoundly intellectual, each consists of a fully developed means of expression while creating a mood—often a blue mood—all its own.



Schachter's opener, "Transparent," evokes a misterioso film noir sound, while much of the subsequent music defies classification. Schachter's "She Wept" fleshes out as a duet featuring Schachter with pianist Tom Lawton, evoking the feeling of listening to John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner on a ballad that combines with a sense of classical reverie, invoking rich modern expressions suggestive of Ravel and Poulenc.



"The Immortals: a Suite in Time"—three movements based respectively on Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge," John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," and Sonny Rollins' "Pent-Up House"—alludes to both the continuities and differences among these three legendary saxophonists, especially in the diverse ways they used rhythm, breaks and intervals in the flow of the sound. In the suite, three distinct meanings of "swing" emerge in Schachter's capable hands, with Leon Boykins displaying his brilliant and bouncing walking bass.



"Three-Ni: Variations on a Theme of Stravinsky" uses a 12-tone row from "Threni," one of the iconic Russian composer's later compositions, in a most unusual variation on a blues progression. In a feat of musical prestidigitation, in the end the piece plays out as an afterthought to a pleasant day, a coda to warmth and love. Lawton's pianism is stunningly beautiful, making rich use of pentatonic motifs that were the trademark of Debussy and other impressionist composers.



The remaining pieces on the album become more playful as they go along, in the multiple respects of fun, clever turns of phase, and complex musical phrasing. "Einstein Daydreamt," for instance, goes in and out of the diatonic scale the way Einstein's geometry bends space-time.



Omnibus combines the best features of a disciplined chamber music approach to the trio with elements of blues and swing, making for a true manifestation of the jazz idiom. With the capable assistance of Boykins, drummer Matt Scarano, and Lawton's supreme musical intelligence on two tracks, this CD successfully achieves a high level of musicality.


Track Listing: Transparent (For Steve Lacey); She Wept; The Immortals: a Suite in Time (Inner Urge; Giant Steps; Pent-Up House); Three-Ni: Variations on a Theme of Stravinsky; Think of One; Einstein Daydreamt; Bluesharp; Westward.

Personnel: Ben Schachter: saxophone; Leon Boykins: bass; Matt Scarano: drums; Tom Lawton: piano (2, 6).

Title: Omnibus | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Ben-Jam Music

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