In his recent book Jazz: A Critics Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings, New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff cast deserved light on the career of the obscure jazz organist "Baby Face" Willette by including his Face to Face on that sanctified list. Mr. Ratliff qualified that pick by saying, "It transcends the cliches of organ jazz records, of which there are many."
With that, I say we all better be checking out Jesse Chandler, because his new record transcends not only every cliche of organ jazz, but more momentously, casts aside many of the cliches of contemporary jazz in the process. A product of New York's New School, Chandler's part of the new school of modernists taking compositional inspiration from rock, film and electronic music. This compositional onus is taken in earnest, not as some spice to add to the conventional concoction to buffet sales. Hooks run deep, consisting of melodic sections having little to do with conventional jazz harmony and vocabulary and more to do with mood and atmosphere.
The completely unexpected, unconventional sounds he extrudes from the instrument, combined with an uncanny level of interaction between it and the front line, distinguishes his style. Those expecting that organ date sound aren't going to get it here. Thing is, they're going to love what they hear-a sound palette comprised of new hues, varying in color from Rhodes to Wurlitzer, accordion to pump organ, celeste to guitar-like sounds.
Word is, Jesse's not shy about covering Radiohead, Coldplay and Bjork tunes on his live gigs. Cue up "Walnut Tree" to hear that tribal, mini-epic feel that these emo-emitters are noted for, with drummer Bill Campbell rocking out on brushes, Chandler's left hand providing sub/dub bass movement, and Kris Bauman's clarinet providing the "lead vocal." The organ "solo" is seamlessly woven to the melody and the song's second, or sub-hook, an improvisation that's clearly part of the song. "Insomniatown" features "live" drum'n'bass coupled to traditional B-3 type sound, but this time played off of Albert Sanz's acoustic piano, Bauman's processed alto floating over the top like one of those angelic banshees in the bands mentioned above.
The title of the record is probable response to those who would peg Chandler under any heading, including alt-rock jazzer. For instance, "View From Bridge" accentuates the organist?s sound arsenal in the context of a languid bossa that evolves organically into a song that's a solo, then a form that buoys some fat-body bop from guitarist Mike Moreno. "Vera Ventoso," the set's leadoff cut, also indulges the leader's affinity for Latin sounds, breathing new life into the venerable jazz samba by, it seems, breathing some kind of magical air into the bellows and drawbars of the instrument. Along with Jesse's breeze, Moreno's strummed acoustic and Bauman's Getzisms literally thrust the listener into the vibrant, windy summer's day of the song's title.
This is the record of the young 2004-so good that I can't see anyone coming along to challenge Jesse Chandler for new artist of the year.
Track Listing: 1. Vera Ventoso, 2. Februaries, 3. Walnut Tree, 4. Yawn, 5. Swann's Song, 6. Insomniatown, 7. 7 Hills, 8. View from Bridge, 9. Getting Lost,10. Opus 40
Personnel: Jesse Chandler (organ, piano, Fender Rhodes bass, Wurlitzer electric piano), Bill Campbell (drums,perc), Mike Moreno (electric & acoustic guitar), Kris Bauman (alto sax,clarinet), John Ellis (tenor sax, flute, ocarina), Albert Sanz (acoustic piano, Rhodes)