London-based guitarist Jonathan Bratoeff's Between Lines (F-IRE, 2005) was a collection of edgy small group improvisations which delivered plenty and promised more. The recording placed Bratoeff's classically rooted but adventurous electric guitarsomewhere out of Jimmy Raney, heading in a more abstract directionalongside the leaders of Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear, respectively: Pete Wareham (tenor saxophone) and Sebastian Rochford (drums), and Tom Mason (bass). The compelling recording focused on extended real-time soloing and group interplay.
Points Of Perception paints on a larger canvas. The previous album's quartet stays in the lineup, this time augmented by three other outstanding stylistsTom Arthurs (trumpet, flugelhorn), Nick Ramm (keyboards) and Julia Biel (vocals on two tracks). Listening to this recording, there are times when you can't help wishing Bratoeff had left it at that and used this bigger dream lineup to explore the ideas he mapped out on Between Lines in more depth.
Most creative artists, however, have an aversion to standing still, and Bratoeff is as restless as they come. He rings the changes on this new album with the recruitment and foregrounding of hip-hop and drum 'n' bass studio-wiz Wampa, who also co-produces and replaces Rochford on some tracks.
At the planning stage, the collaboration would have promised a genre-bending, thrills 'n' spills adventure, but in practice, it doesn't always get there. Wampa's contributions are of the moment, but they sound imposed upon, rather than bonded with, what's happening around him. He doesn't sound like a fully integrated member of the band, and relatively few of his interventions bust current hip hop and electronica paradigms.
As you'd expect from a lineup of this quality, there is some fine music to be enjoyed here. Bratoeff rips off a handful of terrific solos, sometimes dreamy, other times agitated. Wareham and Arthurs are underemployed, but their duets on "Shrinking World" and "Idiom" are class A. Biel, who here sounds a bit like a warped version of Norah Jones, is divine on the ballad "Cloud Shapes Over A Purple Sky." There's also a good hidden track, which kicks off a couple of minutes after "Forgotten Dreams" and features Pharoah Sanders-ish tenor and agile acoustic bass.
Jonathan Bratoeff is a serious talent, and his desire to push boundaries is to be applauded. He'll likely find his focus and make our hair curl yet.
Track Listing: Farewell; Shrinking World; Starring At Stars; Blast Corruption; Reverie; Dialectic; Idiom; Cloud Shapes Over A Purple Sky; Rise; Pond At Dusk; Eulogyeyes; Forgotten Dreams.
Personnel: Jonathan Bratoeff: guitar, keyboards, Fender Rhodes piano (9); Wampa: programming,
electronics, percussion, tabla, Fender Rhodes piano (11), drums (3,5,6,8,9,12); Tom
Arthurs: trumpet, flugelhorn; Pete Wareham: baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone (9),
flute; Oskar Gudjonsson: tenor saxophone (4,8,10,12); Nick Ramm: Fender Rhodes piano,
piano, nord lead analog syntheziser; Tom Mason: double bass, electric bass; Seb Rochford:
drums (2,4,6,7,10,12); Julia Biel: vocals (8,10); Vital: scratch (6).
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.