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Less than daring, Urban Survival's sophomore release, Story Hill, covers familiar territory, but unlike many contemporary releases, at least it does it dexterously.
More a survey of the contemporary jazz scene than anything elseat least the more popular contours of itthe album presents a series of tunes ranging from the Latin-tinged to basic bop, to classic bluesy swing and everything in between. Highlights of the album include a savvy cover of "Eleanor Rigby," which takes full advantage of the group's arranging skills, musical craftsmanship, and fluid interplay; the extended "Tabula Rasa"; and the ballad "Soliloquy," on which both pianist Olsen and consummate bassist Donica shine.
Less appealing are the long-winded "Fire in the Belly," the technically astute "Great Day," and "Maelstrom." This last piece opens with an intriguingly experimental, disjointed, and expressionistic group improvisation which, though out of context from the rest of the album's efforts, feels for the first few moments like a genuine effort to break the band's self-imposed mould. Unfortunately, instead of continuing down this path, the tune resolves itself into a straight-ahead blowing vehicle of generic shape and development. From a critical perspective, it is fascinating that the band's major overall hurdle is condensed within these several bars. At the risky crossroads between experiment and safely executable crowd pleasers, this self-proclaimed "all-male baby boomer jazz quartet" abandons the road less traveled for the path most often taken.
At the conclusion of this admittedly excellently performed endeavor, one is left with the distinct feeling that the members of Urban Survival enjoy their comfort zone, but that if they made the collective effort to eject themselves from it, real sparks would fly. And that is the disappointment of the album.
Track Listing: Fire in the Belly; Tabula Rasa; Eleanor Rigby; Weather or Not; Horizontal Grey; Maelstrom; I'm Old Fashionoed; Soliloquy; Great Day
Personnel: Jim Donica (bass), Eric Olsen(piano), Chris Bowman (drums), John Isley (saxophones)
I love jazz because with it I found my true voice. I have always sung since I was a very small child in school and church. And there have been many genre that I have enjoyed including spiritual, folk, country, latin, soca and pop
I love jazz because with it I found my true voice. I have always sung since I was a very small child in school and church. And there have been many genre that I have enjoyed including spiritual, folk, country, latin, soca and pop. But nothing has touched my artistic sensiblities like JAZZ! Two years ago I moved to Sarasota, FL where I renewed my focus on my singing career and I was so impressed with the quality, quantity and generousity of talented jazz musicains in the Suncoast area. I soon partnered with piano legend Billy Marcus and his trio with Don Mopsick and Stephen Bucholtz. What a blast working with these guys and having them back me up on my first jaz album, Here's To You... which was just released on October 1st. I can't wait to see where the coming year brings me! Check out syniacarrolljazz.com