Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More Catching Up

Three for All - Jerry Bergonzi (Savant) - Here's an impressive trio + date from the fine tenor saxophonist and educator.  "+" refers to the fact that the leader overdubs soprano saxophone and/or piano on a number of tracks.  Even though Bergonzi adds other sounds to the trio, the interaction between he, bassist Dave Santoro and drummer Andrea Michelutti sounds organic and alive. The main  reasons for that are 1) - the trio has worked together extensively and 2) - Bergonzi writes songs with good melody lines and not just "riffs." Cuts like "Bluebonics" with its melody played on both saxophones and with piano chordal backing and "Tectonic Plates" stand out not because of a gimmick but for their richness.  That does not mean the trio cuts are dull - oh, no way.  "Obama" brings to mind the best work of mid-50's Sonny Rollins while "Fidh" thrives on Santoro's full bass sounds and Michelutti's crisp drum work.
Through it all, Jerry Bergonzi's tenor playing is muscular and musical, filled with ideas, at times conversational but never just "blowing for blowing's sake." The rhythm section couldn't play better and bassist Santoro gives good support, plays intelligent counterpoint and is a strong second soloist.  Michelutti keeps everyone in line without being a strict timekeeper.  "Three for All" is good music that grows with each listen and makes one want more.  For more information, go to www.jazzdepot.com

Out 'n' In - Empirical (NAIM) - For its second CD, the British quartet has created a program as they write in the liner notes "inspired by and dedicated to the late Eric Dolphy" (1928-1964.)  Asked to participate in an 80th birthday celebration held in London, the group invited vibraphonist Lewis Wright to play with them. Several months later, the group (alto saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, bassist Tom Falmer and drummer Shaney Forbes) replaced original members Kit Downes (piano) and Jay Phelps (trumpet) with Wright and the result is this fine new recording.  Joining the foursome on the recorded project is Julian Siegel (tenor sax, bass clarinet), a member of the British "post-jazz" quartet, Partisans, who also released a smashing trio CD in 2009 (featuring bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Joey Baron.)
"Out 'n' In" does a fine job delineating the influence Dolphy had in his short time on the scene.  Using his classic Blue Note CD as a jumping off point, many of the pieces have that spare, open, sound the 1964 Lp displayed.  The band plays "Hat & Beard" and "Gazzelloni" from the recording, Siegel's bass clarinet leading the way on the former along with Wright's interpretation of Bobby Hutcherson's brilliant work while the latter steams along on the crisp rhythm work of Falmer and Forbes.  The drummer really pushes the proceedings with crisp ride cymbal work.  "A Conversation" is just that - Facey and Siegel (on tenor) improvising in the manner of Dolphy and John Coltrane, wrapping themselves around a riff. The handsome ballad "A Bitter End for A Tender Giant" begins as a dirge but moves into a longer section where the bass clarinet, vibes and alto weave a hypnotic and melodic spell.  "Dolphyus Morphyus" is a through composed work that builds off of Dolphy's riff-inspired melodies and conversational solos.  Nearly 11 minutes long, the energy and invention never flags.  The closing track, "Bowden Out", is another ballad, with more stand-out work from Wright and horn lines that hint at both  classical and blues melodies.

Empirical's self-titled debut 2007 CD was a swinging affair that showed the group was still digesting influences and striving to forge its identity.  Replacing the piano with vibes changes the dynamics and, although the music is proudly steeped in the work of Eric Dolphy, Bobby Hutcherson and Charles Mingus, one can hear that this young band has grown impressively in the last 2 years.  For more information, go to http://empiricalmusic.com.

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