Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
534

Metta Quintet: Subway Songs

By

Sign in to view read count
Metta Quintet: Subway Songs You might not expect a jazz performance of quite this blazing class from a band at the centre of a charitable educational venture, but you should never take music of this spirit and vigour for granted anywhere. Feel free to learn more about JazzReach (Performing Arts & Education Association, Inc.), which was founded by the quintet's drummer, H. Benjamin Schuman. The published details of the association's programmes may well lend great ideas to kindred ventures.

This official resident ensemble's work combines education with a programme of commissioning, recording and performing entirely new works. Making things better all round? Finding good material to do good things with, for sure.

The recording starts with a peep-peep-peep sound, the short melody announcing that a NYC subway door is going to close. Use of subway sounds between—and to a very limited extent within—performances relates to a use of subway sounds and rhythms in devising thematic material. Duke Ellington also got a lot from trains.

Once the morning train's going, with Helen Sung's piano as the music's engine, the drive, swing, and joyful noise of the group's two saxophonists—the wonderful Mark Gross on alto and Marcus Strickland on tenor—lift the spirits. Myron Walden's "Underground" does seem paradoxically titled, given the way the musicians make it sound so sunny.

Train sounds accompany the opening of Sung's "Fast Forward," where the two-horn combination is a sheer joy. Gross likes his horn's lower register; he's worked with Nat Adderley, and he filled Johnny Hodges' chair in the grandson Ellington band. Strickland's fondness for the bottom end of his soprano allows a magnificent blend with the alto, notably on Jimmy Greene's "Underground Messenger." And Helen Sung is a strong, affirmative musician, quite apart from JazzReach's programme on women in jazz.

This is lovely music. For another example, check out Strickland's Carneyesque bass clarinet opening on his own "Ephemeral Muse," and the rhythm section in general. The dubbed subway sounds have something of a better than unobtrusive effect of listeners lightly and politely chatting between numbers at a live gig. Study the programme in more detail, including John Cowherd's three-part "Subway Suite." I find it more interesting than the New York subway. Lean back and feel, well, elevated. The minute or so of a rush-hour closer affords the image of postponing the trip home till things are peaceful. Have a beer, think back, anticipate listening to heartwarming music and press the play button again.


Track Listing: Morning Rush (Stand Clear of the Closing Doors); Underground; Subway Suite, Pt. 1; Subway Suite, Pt. 2; Subway Suite, Pt. 3; Fast Forward; Underground Messenger; Ephemeral Muse; Evening Rush.

Personnel: H. Benjamin Schuman: drums; Helen Sung: piano; Marcus Strickland: tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet; Mark Gross: alto saxophone; Joshua Ginsburg: bass.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: JazzReach | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Big Drum / Small World
Big Drum / Small World
JazzReach
2012
buy
Subway Songs
Subway Songs
JazzReach
2007
buy
Subway Songs
Subway Songs
JazzReach
2006
buy
Going To Meet The Man
Going To Meet The Man
KOCH International Jazz
2002
buy
Chris Potter Chris Potter
reeds
Joshua Redman Joshua Redman
saxophone
Joe Henderson Joe Henderson
sax, tenor
Tom Harrell Tom Harrell
trumpet
Ben Allison Ben Allison
bass, acoustic
Mark Turner Mark Turner
sax, tenor
Donny McCaslin Donny McCaslin
saxophone
Seamus Blake Seamus Blake
sax, tenor
Ted Howe Ted Howe
piano
John Basile John Basile
guitar

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.