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NYSQ: Sleight Of Hand

Roger Farbey By

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Acronymically if not quite stylistically taking its cue from the Modern Jazz Quartet, the New York Standards Quartet delivers the goods in a respectful and often driving manner as evidenced by the opener, Mal Waldron's ballad "Soul Eyes" which is given an allegro makeover.

Instantly recognisable as a Monk tune, "Ask Me Now" bears the characteristic TM trademark rhythmically choppy irregularity and irresistible charm. Following a loyal and Coltrane-esque reading of Duke Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood," the only non-standard composition on the album is pianist David Berkman's title track, a mid-paced boppy number.

Starting as a dulcet piano trio "I Fall In Love Too Easily" evolves into a refreshingly strident quartet number as is its successor, Hank Mobley's breezy "This I Dig Of You" from his 1960 Blue Note album Soul Station.

"Lover Man" subtly fades in and after its seven and a half minute reworking fades out just as unobtrusively, but it's the whole piece that stands out. Almost entirely circumventing the famous melody except briefly towards the end and given a tempo turbo boost compared to the original, it is arguably the most rewarding number on the album and transforms a well-known ballad into a real foot-tapping swinger.

Perhaps the mark of a good tune is how well it stands up to reinterpretation and this selection proves robust. The NYSQ approach these timeless classics plus the one original, with flair and vigour, breathing new life into them. Just because these are "standards" does not necessarily mean they have to be delivered in a standard way.

Track Listing: Soul Eyes; Ask Me Now; In A Sentimental Mood; Sleight Of Hand; I Fall In Love Too Easily; This I Dig Of You; Detour Ahead; Lover Man.

Personnel: Tim Armacost: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; David Berkman: piano; Daiki Yasukagawa: double bass; Gene Jackson: drums.

Title: Sleight Of Hand | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings Ltd

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