Atlanta is not known as a hotbed of jazz activity. Pianist/arranger Duke Pearson
hailed from the city, and trumpeter Russell Gunn
has a longstanding residency at the club Churchill Grounds, but on average, the metropolis rarely registers on the jazz map. On With Many Hands
, 23-year old bassist Michael Feinberg
's second album as a leader, the Atlanta native and his cohort of young whiz kids (the oldest is 24) make his hometown proud. The sextet heard here comfortably speaks the post-millennial, inside-outside lingua franca
of groups like Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, and leaves no question that the promising young bassist is a name to watch for in the future.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Feinberg is currently pursuing his Master's at NYU, because the closest corollary for the youthful energy and commanding presence heard here is bassist Ben Allison
and the Jazz Composers Collective
of ten years ago. Many of the compositions are dense, multi-geared machines, built around a fine-tuned sense of dynamics that usually only comes through playing together regularly. Also like the JCC, it is almost shocking how fully-formed the personalities of the instrumentalists are. Feinberg plays with bravura throughout, providing a rock-solid foundation and supple timing, and alto saxophonist Godwin Louis' keening, clustered formulations are consistently a revelation.
The two finest tracksdrummer Daniel Platzman's "Temple Tales" and Feinberg's "The Hard Stuff"succeed with a similarly aggressive, driving approach. Both are built on top of a vamp cycle in the rhythm section, which owes as much to funk or hip-hop as to modern jazz, where Platzman, Feinberg, keyboardist Julian Shore
and guitarist Alex Wintz
lock into a repetitive figure and push it to a torrid climax. The equivalent of rhythmic lockjaw, the effect is achieved not through technical wizardry, but through touch, attack and a progressive paring down of unessential elements. The live impact must be all the more thrilling. "August," on the other hand, shows off the sextet's softer side: a glittering ballad reading, minus the horns, it features pithy, floating solos from Feinberg, Wintz and Shore.
The album only really falters at the very end, with "Fighting Monsters" and "Lost and Found," and only because the music is less of Feinberg's own conception, and more the making of hundreds of university master classes. The playing by everyone involved is a top-shelf take on the straight-ahead jazz mainstream, but the two tracks are less textured, less searching and less of their 21st Century moment than the rest of the album that precedes them. Still, if there are any residual doubts as to the participants' ability to fly high over straightforward changes, the album closes with a resounding ten-minute, two-track answer in the affirmative.
Feinberg clearly has more on his mind here than simply throwing together some standards and showing off his chops. The whole conception, from the compositions to the arrangements to the improvising, is mature and fully-evolved. The future is in good hands.