All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

162

Roy Nathanson: Sotto Voce

By

Sign in to view read count
The Italian term selected by saxophonist Roy Nathanson as the title of his latest CD connotes a hushing of sung or spoken tones, a deceptive name for a recording with so many worthwhile things to say. On Sotto Voce, the Jazz Passengers co-founder leads an idiosyncratic five-piece through an unholy hodgepodge of pop, post bop, hip-hop and poetry. The unusual mixture succeeds on account of the album's democratic approach, which renders soloistic virtuosity secondary to an overall group concept.

Enlisted by Nathanson are two fellow Jazz Passengers, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes and violinist Sam Bardfeld. Both players recompense for the absence of a traditional chordal instrument by serving roles that are largely, though not exclusively, harmonic in nature. Tim Kiah provides dexterous bass work, and in lieu of a drummer is "human beatbox" Napoleon Maddox, whose masterful phonic gymnastics transcend mere novelty value. Each musician provides vocals, though who contributes what is not always clear.

The spoken-word recitations are Nathanson's; delivered in a cool monotone, they range from biographical narrative to abstract poetry. Falling into the former category is the ear-catching opener, "By the Page," in which Nathanson recounts the monetarily driven childhood origins of his literary leanings. Among the tracks that follow, three are covers: the pop song "Sunny" and the showtune "Sunrise, Sunset" (from Fiddler on the Roof) are given characteristically quirky treatments, while Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "The Inflated Tear" receives an impassioned vocal performance and impressionistic new lyrics by Nathanson.

The originals are no less inspired. The tube station setting in "London Story" is vividly brought to life by the band's replication of a subway train's stop-start pace. The sprechstimme of "Kidnapped" scurries through a haze of swift walking bass, pizzicato violin, and trombone improvisation, culminating in a discordant, unanimous wail. The unshakable "Shake" lapses into a '70s crime-film groove once Nathanson has assured us that, despite going broke and losing his hair, he will continue to "shake" and to "slim that slam." The beautifully arranged "Home" is reminiscent of the Beach Boys' Smiley Smile album, while the off-the-cuff finale "It's Alright" is downright danceable.

The engagingly offbeat Sotto Voce casts jazz vocalization in an intriguing new light. Gracing the cover is a glowing blurb from no less a pop luminary than Elvis Costello, from which listeners might assume that the recording has mainstream potential. They would not be mistaken: Nathanson's is an accessible experimentalism, one that eschews both avant-garde elitism and the overproduction of pandering "crossover" jazz.


Track Listing: By The Page; Sunny; Kidnapped; London Story; The Inflated Tear; Sunrise, Sunset; Shake; Home; It's Alright.

Personnel: Roy Nathanson: alto and soprano saxophone, voice; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone, singing; Sam Bardfeld: violin, vocals; Tim Kiah: bass, vocals; Napoleon Maddox: human beatbox, vocals.

Title: Sotto Voce | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: AUM Fidelity

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Book Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Nearness And You, Duets and Improvisations

Nearness And You,...

Clean Feed Records
2016

buy
Complicated Day

Complicated Day

ENJA - Yellowbird
2014

buy
 

Subway Moon

Enja Records
2010

buy
Subway Moon

Subway Moon

Enja Records
2009

buy
Sotto Voce

Sotto Voce

AUM Fidelity
2006

buy
Fire At Keaton's Bar & Grill

Fire At Keaton's Bar...

Six Degrees Records
2000

buy

Related Articles

Read A New Beginning CD/LP/Track Review
A New Beginning
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 23, 2018
Read Onyx Noir - Jazz Works For Brass Quintet CD/LP/Track Review
Onyx Noir - Jazz Works For Brass Quintet
by Gareth Thompson
Published: June 23, 2018
Read Triad CD/LP/Track Review
Triad
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 23, 2018
Read Sketches of American Music CD/LP/Track Review
Sketches of American Music
by Doug Collette
Published: June 23, 2018
Read Three Pictures CD/LP/Track Review
Three Pictures
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 23, 2018
Read Alive In The East? CD/LP/Track Review
Alive In The East?
by Chris May
Published: June 22, 2018
Read "I Believe In You" CD/LP/Track Review I Believe In You
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 18, 2017
Read "Deuce" CD/LP/Track Review Deuce
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 2, 2018
Read "Musical Journey Through Time" CD/LP/Track Review Musical Journey Through Time
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 29, 2017
Read "Flux Reflux" CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read "Omara" CD/LP/Track Review Omara
by Roger Farbey
Published: February 3, 2018
Read "The Quest" CD/LP/Track Review The Quest
by Geno Thackara
Published: April 15, 2018