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Joel Frahm: The Navigator

Mark Corroto By

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Joel Frahm’s second disc as leader has all the trappings of a John Coltrane legacy recording. Sure that’s a heavy burden, but one he proves worthy. Like his 1999 disc Sorry, No Decaf, Frahm mines hard-bop with a self-admission (like Coltrane) that he is not comfortable on up-tempo tunes. Fine, grace not speed signifies great art. Take his version of “My One And Only Love,” the mind jumps directly to Johnny Hartman March 7, 1963 singing the same song alongside Coltrane in Rudy Van Gelder’s studio. Just as Hartman/Coltrane lay down the romance, Frahm spins it into gold, with mature tenor playing beyond his thirty-years.

Frahm is a contemporary of Matt Wilson, Patrick Zimmerli, and Chris Potter. These four young artists are developing distinct voices and solid reputations in the jazz community. Frahm made the acquaintance of bandleader/vocalist Betty Carter before joining drummer Matt Wilson’s band. He distinguished himself on Wilson’s two previous discs Going Once, Going Twice and Smile, and Frahm covers Wilson’s “Hymn (For Don Cherry)” here. “Hymn,” a slow tempo folk-blues, is one of the most memorable jazz tunes written in the past decade and a perfect improvisation vehicle. Like Jeff ‘Tain’ Watt’s "Blutain", it allows for space, contemplation and is a perfect showcase for Frahm’s excitable playing.

Accompanying Frahm are the in-demand session players Billy Drummond and Scott Colley, plus pianist David Berkman. Berkman adds four compositions to this date, plus is a perfect partner to Frahm. As on Berkman’s recent album Communication Theory he proves modern jazz isn’t just a rehashing of the 1960s, but an exercise in the communication of ideas. Together with Frahm, the pair honor John Coltrane not only in sound but in a forward push of the jazz envelope.

Track List:White Bear Speaks; Gradually, I Insert Myself Into The Conversation; Hymn (For Don Cherry); The Navigator; The Shoko Dance; Shards; My One And Only Love; Fort Wayne; Ants; Sister Julie.


Personnel: Joel Frahm

Title: The Navigator | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

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