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Colin Dean: Shiwasu

Bruce Lindsay By

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Colin Dean: Shiwasu Bassist and composer Colin Dean graduated from New York's New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in 2006, and has since played across musical genres that include jazz, hip-hop and indie rock. Shiwasu, his first recording under his own name, finds him in the company of three distinguished fellow musicians on a set of tunes that draw on Dean's non-jazz influences to bring a fresh edge to mainstream modern jazz.

Dean and drummer Colin Stranahan form a tight and dynamic rhythm section, while saxophonist Sean Nowell—who plays in Dean's jazz and hip-hop orchestra, Roots and Grooves—is a melodic, precise lead player, especially on soprano. Pianist Rachel Z. moves between roles with ease—her rhythm playing is full and rich, her solos are lyrical and inventive.

Of Dean's own compositions, "Wakan" is a standout tune, a beautiful melody, handled mainly by Z, with some fine percussion from Stranahan and a fluid solo from Dean himself. "Akasha" is the most emphatic display of Dean's hip-hop influences—a solid groove from Dean, Stranahan and Z underpins the melody from Newell's tenor sax, before Z takes over with a sparkling piano solo, full of chunky chords and tight runs. Z also impresses on "Brooklyn Ferry"—her playing, coupled with Dean's flowing bass line, evokes the gentle motion of a ship on the water.

There are two covers on Shiwasu: Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart's "My Romance," and Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin's "My Ship." The former tune is given a straightforward, somewhat anonymous arrangement, although Z once again delivers some splendid piano, and Dean's own playing is crisply swinging. "My Ship," from the musical Lady In The Dark, retains its well-known melody but the quartet invest it with a slightly more up-tempo and syncopated arrangement than usual: Stranahan's brushed drums drive the tune along, while Z's piano, Nowell's soprano, and Dean's arco bass each take turns acting as the lead instrument.

Shiwasu is a strong recording—mainstream, but with added influences that lift it out of the well-worn path. Dean is a musician with some innovative ideas and the ability to make them work, and his tunes on Shiwasu signal the arrival of a worthy new talent.


Track Listing: Growth; Wakan; My Romance; Bardo; Akasha; Brooklyn Ferry; My Ship.

Personnel: Sean Nowell: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Rachel Z: piano; Colin Dean: acoustic bass; Colin Stranahan: drums.

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Fringes of Jazz


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