Saxophonist Noah Preminger has a reputation for exploring various genres outside jazz, like protest music and old-time delta blues. He has now formed a group called Dead Composers Club, with drummer Rob Garcia, to perform the works of various composers who are no longer with us. With Preminger's track record that could mean anybody from Duke Ellington to Leonard Cohen, but on this first effort they turn to classical composer Frederic Chopin.
Playing Chopin seems to bring out a new playfulness in Preminger's playing. Propelled by Garcia's dramatic drumming, Nate Radley's lyrical guitar and Kim Cass' solid bass, he attacks Chopin's melodies with a lightness and fluidity that illuminates them but avoids really radical change. "Nocturne Op27 No.1" has the tenor carefully staking out the theme over billowing guitar and rolling drums, while on "Prelude Op28" Preminger bends and smears notes over an ominous two-step pulse beat before Radley bubbles up into raga-like runs with a psychedelic rock flavor.
The approaches the quartet take on the compositions vary from pounding to gentle. "Etude Op25 No.7" has a ribbon of serene saxophone flowing around calm, ringing guitar and bass notes, while on "Prelude Op28 No.24" Preminger soars over the brisk pace set by the rhythm section, even breaking momentarily into a swinging bit of 4/4 blowing. "Nocturne" Op32 No.2" has the feel of a gently rocking lullaby with Radley adding a Bill Frisell-like country twang and "Prelude Op28 No.6" begins with a straight-laced tenor sax melody wedded to a heavy drum beat before Radley and Preminger stretch out in their solos with billowing guitar and impassioned tenor squealing. One of the gentlest of all the tracks is the romantic "Nocturne Op62 No.2" where Preminger blows the theme softly and Radley, Cass and Garcia wrap around him like mist.
The lyrical beauty of Chopin's music is well present here but Preminger and the other musicians leave plenty of space to imprint their own personalities as they rush, swoon and float through these melodies. As classical-jazz hybrids go this one wins major points for liveliness and sheer beauty. This is a lush, gorgeous-sounding recording.
Track Listing: Nocturne Op27 Nº1 in C# minor; Prelude Op28 Nº2 in A minor; Nocturne Op9 Nº2 in Eb major; Prelude Op28 Nº24 in D minor; Etude Op25 Nº7 in C3 minor; Prelude Op28 Nº8 in F# minor; Nocturne Op62 Nº2 in E major; Nocturne Op32 Nº2 in Ab major; Prelude Op28 Nº6 in B minor; Prelude Op28 Nº9 in E major.
Personnel: Noah Preminger: tenor saxophone; Nate Radley: guitar; Kim Cass: bass; Rob Garcia: drums.
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