Pianist James Carney takes the parameters involved in scoring films and applies them with the discipline of a jazz composer on the ambitious Ways & Means, the kind of challenging and cohesive work that listeners have come to expect from this exemplary musician.
Carney's band is as great a gathering of talent as one can find and they don't waste a note in his intricate arrangements. The excellence of Tony Malaby's tenor and Josh Roseman's trombone drive "Nefarious Notions"; Carney blends acoustic and synthesized sounds to produce a wonderful aural bouquet on the epic "Squatters," Peter Epstein adding a sprite of a soprano sax above Mark Ferber's impatient cymbal tapping, while trumpeter Ralph Alessi doesn't play a solo as much as sing an aria. The improvised "Champion of Honesty," which opens with someone (probably Alessi) mumbling into his horn, sounds like Satan's Philharmonic warming up before a concert.
Carney's layered keyboard work paces the eerie "Onondaga," with Ferber's measured drumming and Epstein's passionate soprano building up the tension. "Legal Action" sounds like a marriage between jazz and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. "Pow Wow" is a free jazz type of improv that sounds like something Charles Mingus or John Coltrane might have assembled. Even the ballad "Gargoyles," a touching tribute to Carney's late drummer Dan Morris, is just as rich with the layered interplay that defines the disc.
To say that Carney is simply a jazz musician would be somewhat off the mark. With all of the styles and influences he seamlessly integrates on Ways & Means, his music would disintegrate the boundaries of any single genre into which one might try to place it.
Track Listing: Nefarious Notions; Squatters; Champion of Honesty; Onondaga; The Business End; Legal Action; Fallout; Pow Wow; Gargoyles.
Personnel: Peter Epstein: soprano and alto saxophones; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Josh Roseman: trombone; James Carney: acoustic and electric pianos, analog synthesizer, glockenspiel; Chris Lightcap: contrabass; Mark Ferber: drums.