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Andy Suzuki: Prime

Dan McClenaghan By

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You'd think the job of making a successful jazz CD would be hard enough without imposing restrictions on the process. The restriction that saxophonist Andy Suzuki has tackled on Prime is prime numbers—and refresher for those who have forgotten their math studies, a prime number is one those that can be divided only by itself and the number one.

Enter the mathematically inclined Suzuki, who wanted to ."..combine my interest in composition and my fascination with numbers." Prime numbers specifically, as it turns out.

The seven prime numbered tunes on the disc are "2," "3," "5," "7," "11," "13" and "17.." Suzuki mapped the compositions onto various countable aspects of music. The opener, "Machine Language" (2), uses as its core a two octave mode. "Good Things" (3) is a waltz, with three beats per bar. "Four Fingers and a Thumb" (5) has the drums playing in 5/4, and so on.

Talking numbers can get a little dry, so what does the music sound like?

Suzuki is probably best-known in smooth jazz circles, having recorded four albums with smooth jazz guitarist David Benoit, but his quintet (five players, of course)—saxophone, trumpet and rhythm, anchored by Nick Manson's Fender Rhodes—makes a sometimes robust, sometimes dreamy mainstream sound, leaning in the fusion direction, not unlike the music of Miles Davis' second great quintet. They open with an electric keyboard shimmer on "Machine Language" and rumble into some abstraction before hitting the groove. "Triskaidekology" (13), a hard-driving bebop tune, has an Art Blakey vibe, and the introspective and lovely "Four Fingers and a Thumb" features Suzuki on flute, softening the mood. "Tombstone" (17) feels floaty and fittingly foreboding.

Suzuki's fascination with the connection between numbers and music has resulted in a vibrant set of jazz sounds on Prime.

Track Listing: Machine Language; Good Things...; Four Fingers and a Thumb; Lady Luck; One Broken; Triskaidekology; Tombstone.

Personnel: Andy Suzuki: tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Steve Huffsteter: trumpet, flugelhorn; Nick Manson: electric piano; Dean Taba: bass; Kendall Kay: drums

Title: Prime | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Manasus Music


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