Christopher Lehman: Popjazzic

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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On the face of it, many would find the title of New York City-based trumpeter Christopher Lehman's Popjazzic somewhat ludicrous. But, then, isn't the title "Latin jazz" somewhat ludicrous too? After all, that form of jazz has everything to do with Africa, Spain and Portugal, America and the indigenous peoples of the countries of South America, as well as other parts of Europe. The only thing "Latin" about it is the European root of the languages, which in turn came from ancient Rome, which was not a civilization known for its music anyway. If that sounds ludicrous, the point has thus been made. Lehman's thoroughly enjoyable album has been self-produced in perhaps the toughest of markets for music and he was probably finding a way to get his product on the rack.

Having gotten past his album's curious name, it's time to enjoy the music. This is sensuous, swaggering music whose performers wrap their ideas and phrases around hot, liquid guitar lines chasing Lehman's trumpet, which varies from husky to bright to burnished as it flutters skyward. The performers are harmonically opposed to each other like voices dissonant in their very symmetry, or dancers winding and unwinding, twirling in curvilinear filigreed patterns. The true nature of the tenor saxophone is revealed in tumbling, urban metaphors, raw and intoxicated and in stark raving counterpoint to the trumpet. The piano and organ are heard, playing ecclesiastically to a congregation of the funky faithful. Hard-driving bass and subtly shaded percussion creating a visual aura for the music as it turns colors and stellar shades of soulful timbers, alive and revved up instrumentally—or, in the case of "More Than You Know" and "Is This Love?," vocalized by the plaintive voice of bassist Mark D'Agostino.

Best of all, every chart is wonderfully crafted in the classic 32-bar—and in some cases several measures more—soul song. It's Motown revisited, the Motown of Marvin Gaye and The Four Tops, with a touch of the cool West Coast of Roy Ayers and, sometimes, Zoot Sims. Still, the music unmistakably remains Lehman's—an artist with a penchant and gift for melody, and also for song. "Well Funk Me Up!!!" is an anthem that would make someone like Horace Silver wish he had written it, while "Midnight Breeze" blows hot and cool, setting the tactile senses tingling sharply—both possessing a robust dance. "Boogaloo for Dexter" is reminiscent of the rich textures of Dan Block making lively conversation with Jon-Erik Kellso. But wait a minute. These are a pair of musicians named James Davis and Christopher Lehman, along with a host of several others here who ought to be first-call studio musicians. And they are riding "The Diesel Train," kicking up a storm.

Led by Christopher who? No, not the banker's brother, but a fine musician who has written every chart on this album and is surely going places. And the oddly named Popjazzic will be remembered as the one that had every fine reason for getting him there.

Track Listing: Well Funk Me Up!!!; Midnight Breeze; The Party Grind; More Than You Know; Boogaloo For Dexter; Whatcha Doin'?; Is This Love; Caribbean Coffee; Chasing The Dragon; The Diesel Train.

Personnel: Christopher Lehman: trumpet; James Davis: tenor saxophone; Charles Carrington: piano, organ; Richard Cohen: guitar; Buddy Booker: bass guitar; Brandon Lewis: drums, percussion; Tami Shoji: piano, organ (9, 10); Agi Obato: guitar (9, 10); Norm Lotz: bass guitar (9, 10); Bryant Dupree: drums (9, 10); Frank D'Agostino: vocals, bass guitar (4, 7); Rusty Cloud: piano (4, 7); Paul Lavant: guitar (4, 7); James Clouse: drums (4, 7), saxophone solo (7).

Title: Popjazzic | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Self Produced


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