All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

364

Roy Nathanson: Sotto Voce

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
An intriguing combination of spoken word, multipart vocal harmonies and adventurous instrumental jazz with a surprising rhythmic twist, Sotto Voce is not unprecedented in saxophonist/composer Roy Nathanson's discography. With trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, Nathanson is co-founder of the long running Jazz Passengers, those erstwhile guardians of postmodern irreverence. Their career over the past decade has found them reinventing the role of vocals in jazz. Beginning with 1994's In Love, which featured a slew of guest vocalists, including further collaborations with Deborah Harry and Elvis Costello, Nathanson's crew has pushed the art of contemporary jazz singing beyond mere nostalgia.

Nathanson assembled a crack band for this session, which was two years in the making. Trombonist Curtis Fowlkes is Nathanson's venerable foil and a silky-smooth vocalist, contrasting with his expressive trombone stylings. A recent Jazz Passenger recruit, violinist Sam Bardfeld, whose recent Periodic Trespasses (FSNT, 2006) featured surreal voice-over narration, fits in seamlessly with these two mercurial pranksters.

The surprise twist arrives courtesy of Napoleon Maddox. A beatboxing MC from the Cincinnati hip-hop/jazz outfit Iswhat?!, Maddox both sings lead and delivers old school beats in lieu of an actual drummer. Though his percussive vocal contributions may at first seem incongruous, they reveal an internal logic. Singing bassist Tim Kiah rounds out the group; when Maddox isn't spitting out funky hip-hop beats, Kiah holds down the rhythmic foundation.

Nathanson's occasional spoken word passages are bolstered by group harmony vocal refrains with Kiah's wandering bass lines driven by Maddox's inventive beat-box vocalizations. Bardfeld's lyrical violin soars and Fowlkes' blustery trombone sputters and dives while the leader's tart alto spirals out circuitous runs through this heady, modernized sound. Nathanson borrows ideas from Dixieland and other pre-war styles, without actually replicating them.

Nathanson's writing and arranging embodies elements of Great American Songbook nostalgia, but never slavishly. His eclectic interests defy easy categorization, as best exemplified by his choice of covers. A funky take on the 1960's R&B hit "Sunny," an epic reinterpretation of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "The Inflated Tear," and a dramatic reading of "Sunrise, Sunset" (from Fiddler on the Roof) are all highlights on this singular set. Nathanson's originals mine similar depths, from the outright heart on sleeve sentimentality of "Home" to the taut, episodic angularity of "Shake," complete with edgy outré solos.

Utilizing a wicked combination of instrumental and vocal counterpoint, rich vocal harmonies, passionate free-jazz instrumental cadenzas and collective improvisation, this is intimate ensemble music of a highly advanced but conceptually playful nature. Equal parts carnival excess, vaudeville showmanship and Tin Pan Alley smarts, Sotto Voce finds Nathanson and company delivering what may be the year's most unusual and intriguing album.


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 Murals CD/LP/Track Review
Murals
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 20, 2018
Read Cosmic Language CD/LP/Track Review
Cosmic Language
by Chris May
Published: May 20, 2018
Read More Songs About Error And Shame CD/LP/Track Review
More Songs About Error And Shame
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: May 20, 2018
Read Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley CD/LP/Track Review
Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 20, 2018
Read Earth CD/LP/Track Review
Earth
by Chris May
Published: May 20, 2018
Read Vegir CD/LP/Track Review
Vegir
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 19, 2018
Read "Tenderly featuring Gilad Hekselman" CD/LP/Track Review Tenderly featuring Gilad Hekselman
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 30, 2017
Read "Cochonnerie" CD/LP/Track Review Cochonnerie
by John Sharpe
Published: November 24, 2017
Read "Other Animal" CD/LP/Track Review Other Animal
by Troy Dostert
Published: February 7, 2018
Read "Unfiltered Universe" CD/LP/Track Review Unfiltered Universe
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 29, 2017
Read "A Beautiful Story" CD/LP/Track Review A Beautiful Story
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 30, 2017
Read "Parting Is" CD/LP/Track Review Parting Is
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 14, 2018