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Winter 2017

Doug Collette By

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Jazz Journal is a regular column consisting of pithy takes on recent jazz releases of note as well as spotlights on those titles in the genre that might otherwise go unnoticed under the cultural radar.

Denny Zeitlin & George Marsh
Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations
Sunnyside
2017

Because the multiplicity of drums and percussion instruments George Marsh uses on Expedition is comparable to the comparable array of acoustic and electric keyboards Denny Zeitlin utilizes, a blindfold test conducted would probably never ascertain the album is the work of just two musicians. But just as the pair illustrate yet again how difficult it is for just a duo to play together, so do they confirm the fundamental premise of how less is more: the simplest cymbal rush can charge the quiet around a synthesized melody line in such a way both the sound and the silence light up. As a result, the beauty of these baker's dozen tracks lies in taking them as a whole and feeling the cumulative growth of mood in direct proportion to musical momentum.

Vince Mendoza & The WDR Big Band
Homecoming
Sunnyside
2017

Recorded over two nights and produced by Vince Mendoza, this composite performance recording exudes as much grace as intricacy, as if those two essential components of great music are not only indispensable, but interrelated. As picturesque as is the cover shot depicting where the open road and sky collide, these fluid arrangements of Mendoza's originals, all newly-written at the time of the 2014 concerts, elicit the stately air of a truly outstanding big band. Meanwhile, as dignified as the WDR Big Band Cologne sounds here, there is a discernible sense of lighthearted play, quite likely emanating from its embrace of Mendoza's return to this particular fold after a series of other eclectic projects. Indeed, alternately quiet and rousing as it is, Homecoming sounds like family.

Martial Solal & Dave Liebman
Masters In Bordeaux
Sunnyside
2017

Living up to the title, alternately ear-tickling and (almost but not quite) abrasive, the music Martial Solal and Dave Liebman make here illustrate the difficulty of reaching such an elevated level of musicianship, at least insofar as this duet performance recorded live captures them during interactions on an array of material during which they simply do not rest. That's not to say, these are breathlessly speedy expeditions of Jerome Kern ("All the Things You Are"), Cole Porter ("What Is This thing Called Love") and Miles Davis ("Solar"), but only that the pianist and saxophonist are in endless dialogue in the exchange of ideas for exploring the nuances of this material so rightfully regarded as 'standards.'

Steps Ahead
Steppin' Out
Sunnyside
2017

The clarity of sound as produced by Joachim Becker allows the revelation of how the five-piece Steps Ahead unit functions as fulcrum on which the WDR Big Band balances during the course of this studio collaboration. The transitions are absolutely sublime between the graceful pushing and swaying of the larger ensemble and the relative intimacy of the quintet, especially as solos like guitarist Chuck Loeb's on "Pools" and saxophonist Bill Evans' on "Trains" (filigreed to the max) highlights an unusual but abiding connection between the two ensembles, the main glue of which is vibraphonist Mike Mainieri. All in all, as textures ebb and flow, back and forth, front to back, it's like hearing in 3D.

Logan Strosahl Team
Book I of Arthur
Sunnyside
2017

The imaginative saxophonist's team comes at a listener from all angles on Book I of Arthur. There are bristling angular horn lines, the expansion/contraction of the larger ensemble as it formulates then deconstructs melody and rhythm lines plus the irregular recitation of Beat-like poetry (less of this would be more however). It's all fascinating to those listeners who don't dote on familiar and/or predictable patterns or structure, liberating in fact because as the album progresses, an atmosphere of intimacy arises, no doubt similar to that which the musicians felt in making the record. The gently tuneful closing accentuates the vibrancy of that which precedes it and thus makes it all that much more memorable.

Tracks and Personnel

Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations

Tracks: Track Listing: Geysers; Thorns Of Life; Traffic; Shards Of Blue; Lives Of Clowns; Spiral Nebula; Shooting The Rapids; One Song; Sentinel; Watch Where You Step; Not Lost In The Shuffle; The Hunt; Expedition.

Personnel: Denny Zeitlin: acoustic piano, hardware and virtual synthesizers, keyboards; George Marsh: drums, percussion.

Homecoming

Tracks: Keep It Up; Little Voice; Choros #3; Homecoming; Amazonas; One Times One; Daybreak

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