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Catchy tunes and intelligent soloing do not a masterpiece make, but they do create a memorable and enjoyable listening experience. Tom Beckham's third album as a leader finds him in sympathetic, although slightly overbearing, company of saxophonist Chris Cheek and a rhythm section led by pianist Henry Hey.
Beckham has a unique approach to the vibraphone and does not sound like anyone else. He also composed all the pieces heresmartly crafted, varied and complex enough to be interesting, but not so intricate as to discourage space for improvised solos. Cheek, Hey and Beckham are the main soloists and all three stretch out and weave tight musical lines that are rooted in the melody even as they meander far enough from it to maintain interest.
As a vibraphonist, Beckham shines when his solos are backed by bass and drums, but when the piano enters, even in a supportive role, it tends to encroach on his lines, as if chomping at the bit to let loose and overtake the music. During the ensemble playing, Beckham's mallets can be barely heard over the dominating conversation of saxophone and piano.
As a composer he proves to be intelligent and unique, creating catchy, complex and innovative melodies that allow for different interpretations and improvisations; one or two might even become standards.
This is not a ground breaking masterpiece, but remains solid, consistently interesting and, despite its faults, a highly enjoyable and rewarding album.
Track Listing: Tethered; In Flight; Tiny Star; Parting the Water; Carnival; World Cup; Cee's and Dee's; Grillin'.
Personnel: Tom Beckham: vibraphone; Chris Cheek: saxophones; Henry Hey: piano; Matt Clohesy: bass; Ferenc Nemeth: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.