All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

7

Max Johnson: The Prisoner

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
NYC-based bassist Max Johnson already boasts an impressively strong discography, after just two entries: Quartet (Not Two, 2013) and Elevated Vegetation (FMR, 2012). With a new crew on board for The Prisoner, he tackles that hoary chestnut the concept album. Except of course that in the medium of jazz, this doesn't mean a string of banal lyrics squeezed into a narrative straitjacket, rather in this case a series of musical constructs inspired by the 1960s British TV series of the same name. For those who don't know the program it was an influential and surreal thriller about a former secret agent held prisoner in a strange coastal village resort where his captors try to find out why he abruptly resigned from his job.

However unfamiliarity with the show is no barrier to enjoyment of the disc. But by using the storytelling arc as a framework, Johnson comes up with a sequence of pieces which frequently verge on the mysterious, begetting unexpected configurations and moods, such as the sprightly jig which pops up midway through "No.24 Hammer into Anvil." Johnson has selected his band mates wisely for such a venture. Both saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and violist Mat Maneri eschew the obvious in favor of inscrutable elliptical statements entirely in keeping with the leader's enigmatic charts, which resolutely avoid the head-solos-head orthodoxy.

Johnson excels not only as a writer but also as a performer, reveling in a resonant tone and incisive articulation, whether wielding the bow or picking the strings. Laubrock continues to blossom following her move to NYC. She exudes authority, whether intoning in a measured middle register or exploding into braying overblowing. By contrast Maneri offers a more restrained voice, as his microtonal lines engender a distinctive acerbic but ambiguous flavor though his fierce sawing on "The New Number 2" forms a highlight, testimony to the drama he can create. However the high pitched whistle he produces at the outset of "No.24 Hammer into Anvil" remains unsettling. This must be one of drummer Tomas Fujiwara's most compelling outings. He covers all stations from conversational to tuneful to forceful, without ever becoming bombastic or overpowering.

Johnson allows his cast room to express their own personalities while staying true to his overall conception. Right from the start it's clear that the intertwining of the leader's arco with Maneri's sinuous viola provides an enormous asset, a point reinforced on the mercurial yet ascetic "No.12 Schitzoid Man (Gemini)." Following road testing, the players thoroughly nail the complex pieces. Pertinent examples abound but one noteworthy illustration presents in the seasoned way in which Laubrock enters after a Maneri/Fujiwara duet in "No.48 Living in Harmony" to bring about a roiling anthemic conclusion. While in the liners Johnson suggests that the work should be heard as a suite, each track stands amply on its own merits, revealing more on every subsequent listen.

Track Listing: No.6 Arrival / No.58 Orange Alert; X04; No.12 Schitzoid Man (Gemini); No.24 Hammer into Anvil; No.48 Living in Harmony; The New Number 2; No.2 Once Upon a Time / No.1 Fallout.

Personnel: Ingrid Laubrock: tenor sax; Mat Maneri: viola; Max Johnson: double bass; Tomas Fujiwara: drums.

Title: The Prisoner | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Something Familiar

Something Familiar

Fresh Sound Records
2015

buy
The Prisoner

The Prisoner

NoBusiness Records
2015

buy
Max Johnson: Big Eyed Rabbit

Max Johnson: Big Eyed...

NotTwo Records
2014

buy
The Invisible Trio

The Invisible Trio

Fresh Sound New Talent
2014

buy
The Prisoner

The Prisoner

NoBusiness Records
2014

buy

Related Articles

Read Uplift The People CD/LP/Track Review
Uplift The People
by John Sharpe
Published: August 21, 2018
Read A New Shade Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review
A New Shade Of Blue
by Chris May
Published: August 21, 2018
Read Rabbits on the Run CD/LP/Track Review
Rabbits on the Run
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 21, 2018
Read Imaginary Numbers CD/LP/Track Review
Imaginary Numbers
by John Sharpe
Published: August 21, 2018
Read Point Blank CD/LP/Track Review
Point Blank
by Chris May
Published: August 20, 2018
Read Tell Me The Truth CD/LP/Track Review
Tell Me The Truth
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 20, 2018
Read "Vanished Gardens" CD/LP/Track Review Vanished Gardens
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 10, 2018
Read "The Pocket Philharmonic Orchestra, Peter Stangel – Beethoven Revisited Symphonies 1-9" CD/LP/Track Review The Pocket Philharmonic Orchestra, Peter Stangel –...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 24, 2018
Read "Float Upstream" CD/LP/Track Review Float Upstream
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 26, 2017
Read "Never Stop II" CD/LP/Track Review Never Stop II
by Samuel Stroup
Published: January 28, 2018
Read "Fish Out of Water (Deluxe Edition)" CD/LP/Track Review Fish Out of Water (Deluxe Edition)
by John Kelman
Published: June 15, 2018
Read "Der Verboten" CD/LP/Track Review Der Verboten
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 7, 2017