Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

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

More Articles

Read Bad Hombre CD/LP/Track Review Bad Hombre
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Aladdin's Dream CD/LP/Track Review Aladdin's Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Glow of Benares CD/LP/Track Review Glow of Benares
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Magic Circle CD/LP/Track Review Magic Circle
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: December 12, 2017
Read A Gathering Foretold CD/LP/Track Review A Gathering Foretold
by Geannine Reid
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Swinging In The Holidays CD/LP/Track Review Swinging In The Holidays
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 11, 2017
Read "Popofoni" CD/LP/Track Review Popofoni
by Duncan Heining
Published: May 3, 2017
Read "The Sun Though the Rain" CD/LP/Track Review The Sun Though the Rain
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 31, 2017
Read "Wobbly Dance Flower" CD/LP/Track Review Wobbly Dance Flower
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 4, 2017
Read "Nadje Noordhuis" CD/LP/Track Review Nadje Noordhuis
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: June 18, 2017
Read "Heavy Dance" CD/LP/Track Review Heavy Dance
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: March 14, 2017
Read "Birdhoused" CD/LP/Track Review Birdhoused
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 22, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!