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Shawn Costantino: Waltz for Anne

C. Michael Bailey By

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Finally! A collection of Adult Contemporary jazz that has something to say and knows how to say it. Nothing signals oncoming Muzak more than jazz propelled by electric bass, guitar, and piano. Fortunately, multi-reedist Shawn Costantino slays those dragons of jazz prejudice early in his self-produced Waltz for Anne, with an incendiary cover of The Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love." Costantino takes Art Pepper's comment, "never open the show with a ballad," to heart, blowing the doors off with a funky shot of plutonium from the guitar of Andrew Synowiec and his own tenor saxophone, immediately recalling Eddie Harris and King Curtis by way of Michael Brecker. Synowiec is given full latitude to scorch the earth with his flame-throwing solo, with keyboardist Lincoln Cleary completing the funk attack on organ.

But the leader is not far away. Costantino elbows his way to the front with an understated blowing session introduction to his solo, which he builds to note-spitting crescendo. Taking a hard right, Costantino recasts the Catholic hymn, "Whatever You Do," as a moody, impressionist McCoy Tyner/Herbie Hancock-like tone poem, full of spirit and grace. Cleary's Fender Rhodes so adds the closing touch to this well-imagined, not-so-standard standard. The saxophonist follows this with another surprise in James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely." Costantino plays full-throated, Lenny Pickett-style, wringing all the R&B he can from his horn.

Costantino's more experimental fare works as well. "The Transplant" is a circuitous swim through an extended head into a fully scripted body of a song, before dropping off into the solo sections, buoyed by Cleary and Synowiec, bassist David Hughes and drummer Jen Kuross. Costantino does the lion-share of the soloing, taking the opportunity to fully explore the piece. He then allows the rhythm section out for a fast ride before tying things up neatly. The title tune recalls Bill Evans' waltzes: light and ethereal, with thought-like wisps of cold smoke smelling of Chanel and Alsace.

"The Touch of Your Lips" is the closest thing to a standard on Waltz for Ann. Costantino duets with Cleary in a slightly anxious approach, with the rest of the band insinuating itself into the song. It offers a perfect look at what fine song development is. "Song for Ryan" and "Bailout" close the disc with two well-conceived presentations, the first featuring Hughes and the second Kuross. This is immediately accessible music demanding an audience. The energy Costantino and company bring to this disc beckons more...more.

Track Listing: Can't By Me Love; Whatever You Do; Don't Let Me Be Lonely; The Transplant; Waltz for Anne; The Touch Of Your Lips; Song for Ryan; Bailout.

Personnel: Shawn Costantino: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet. Andrew Synowiec: guitar. Lincoln Cleary: piano, fender rhodes, organ. Jens Kuross: drums. David Hughes: bass.

Title: Waltz for Anne | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Self Produced


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