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This is the second release by classical conservatory-trained New York-based bassist and composer Gregg August, an Assistant Bass Principal of the Brooklyn Philharmonic and a frequent collaborator with experimental composers collective Bang on a Can. One Peace is a more straight-ahead jazz showcase than August's Latin-flavored debut, Late August (Iacuessa Records, 2005). This time August worked closely with the experienced members of his sextet over the last year in a way that solidifies the interplay and trust between them all.
This approach indeed succeeds, since August's compositions are based on intricate nuances and sharp precision with swift punctuations and multi-layered dynamics. The sextet demonstrates how this working process has nurtured August's ten original compositions. Everyone contributes to the sextet's newfound ease of the playing. Saxophonist Myron Walden and trumpeter John Bailey, who played on Late August, are joined by tenor saxophonists Stacy Dillard and Yosvany Terry, as well as two members of Ravi Coltrane's bandpianist Luis Perdomo and drummer E. J. Strickland.
Bailey really shines here, with beautiful articulation and a solo that keeps gaining power on the sentimental "One for Louis." August demonstrates his assured playing with his well-built solo on "Modal Tune." The sharp rhythmic changes of "Sixth Finger"and August and Strickland's tough and tight rhythmic flow, which enables the brass and reeds player to flourishis close to some of Charles Mingus' arrangements for his bands.
"Change of Course" best showcases August's new approach. Based on a simple tone row, with no repetition or specific chord changes, it allows each soloist to alter the theme in any tempo he wishes. Walden, August, Perdomo and Bailey use this freedom in a masterful way, but still suggest a coherent meaning to this composition. The closing "Cascading," featuring Walden's soulful and gentle soprano solo, nods to the Latin side of August, as he still active on the New York Latin scene.
One Peace is beautifully played, wisely composed and arranged, and comes warmly recommended.
Track Listing: Handto Mouth; Nastissimo; One for Louis; Modal Tune; Contradiction; Sixth Finger; In Dedication; Change of Course; Crescent Mood; Cascading.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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