Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Autumn Colors (Part 2)
While Nat Janoff can really play guitar (his lines are often swift, blurs of runs that move up and down the fret board), you should listen to "Come Together Move Apart" to hear how strong the melodies are and how much fun the 4 players have on their journey through the pieces. This is why I listen to jazz, to creative music. Recordings this good give me hope in troubled times. For more information, go to www.natjanoff.com.
It's a program that commences on the low-key side with 2 longer pieces, "Tonic" (12:10) and "Nathan" (8:55) both starting slowly and quietly. The former opens with a short, even-keeled, drum solo before the band tip-toes in, Baggetta's softer chords driving the piece forward. Rigby adds a livelier feel in his tenor solo that also spotlights the fine guitar accompaniment. "Nathan" is even softer, a ballad all the way through, Rigby's soft tenor lines wrapping around the guitar, not unlike the work John Abercrombie did with Charles Lloyd on the saxophonist's "Water is Wide" and "Lift Every Voice" CDs. The band moves a several steps "out" on "Liberty", a work with a rubato feel (fine drum accompaniment) and the next track, "Momentum", has the feel of an Ornette Coleman piece from his Atlantic days. There's more Coleman influence on "Projections", a romp that shows Rigby (on tenor) at his most playful Baggetta switches to acoustic guitar for the lovely and still adventurous "The Sky and the Sea." The blend of the soprano saxophone and acoustic guitar is gentle and emotionally satisfying. The guitarist goes it alone (still on acoustic) for "The Winter Moon", a piece where the melody revolves around a lovely descending line.
Opsvik and Schuller are magnificent throughout, both knowing when to build intensity or to lay back. The bassist offers counterpoint to the soloists' melodies while the drummer is often coloring the background with his pleasing cymbal work.
"Source Material" is modern music as it should be played, not only about cogent solos and sonic experimentation but also melodically strong and filled with striking interplay. Much of the music is played at lower volumes so pay close attention and reap the musical rewards. For more information, go to www.mikebaggetta.com. For tickets to the Firehouse 12 date, go to firehouse12.com.
The program has much to recommend itself to the listener. First, Zenon's Quartet, composed of Luis Perdomo (pianist), Hans Glawischnig (bass) and Henry Cole (drums), has been a working unit since early in the 2000s (Cole replaced Antonio Sanchez after 2005's "Jibaro" recording). Secondly, he employs Guillermo Klein to write arrangements for 8 reeds and 2 brass) and he does a magnificent job of supplying subtle colors and shadings (never getting in the way.) Third, the material Zenon chose comes from the pens of Bobby Capo, Rafael Hernandez, Pedro Flores, Sylvia Rexach and Tite Curet Alonso, names that may be unknown to the average North American listener but whose works sparkle with melodic charm and, at times, rhythmic intensity. Finally, Zenon's saxophone work is so impressive. He plays fluid lines that leap out of the speakers and his ballad work is passionate, warm, and soulful. Several years ago, a criticism of his playing was that (and I am paraphrasing here) it was technically fine but lacked "soul." Can't say that about his recent work - Miguel Zenon has developed into one of the more eloquent alto saxophonists, a player who has found his heart (and voice) in mining the music of his homeland and putting his own distinct sound (and soul) into creating it anew. There is not a weak track on "Alma Adentro" (Depths of My Soul"). Kudos also go to Perdomo who makes the most out of each and every solo. And, Cole's drum work will make you get out of your seat - his dancing rhythms can be subtle or forceful but never dull.
For more information, go to miguelzenon.com. If he's playing anywhere nearby, do your best to be in attendance.
the four bags has just released its 4th CD, "forth" (NCM East) and the ensemble - Mike McGinnis (woodwinds), Brian Drye (trombone), Sean Moran (guitar) and Jacob Garchik (accordion) - has delivered its most consistent and enjoyable program. One continues to marvel at how a drummer-less ensemble can swing so smartly (when they want to) and how they continue to take unconventional material and make it "bags' music." Garchik's fingers on his accordion keys provide the "click track" for the group's re-imagining of "Run", a song originally recorded by the French band Air. The moaning trombone, the rippling and pinging guitar, and the keening accordion cast the piece in a very different light. The foursome has a lively time with its high-stepping "Girias Do Norte" (originally recorded by Brazilian singer-songwriter Jacinto Silva) - Moran's guitar sounds South African, at times, and the rest of the band creates quite a ruckus. Garchik contributes a fascinating arrangement of Iranian musician Parviz Meshkatian's "The Burning", a dramatic piece with a distinctive melody and impressive shifts in intensity.
Of the original material, there's an Eastern European feel to Moran's "Terpischore", more Viennese than Romanian while Drye's "Imaginary Soda" blends Steve Reich and Frank Zappa into a more melodic sonic drink. Garchik's funky "Wayne Shorter Tune With All Different Notes" takes of atop a rhythm that seems like a permutation of Chick Corea's "Spain." McGinnis's "Sweet Home California" utilizes the rhythm from the Lynryd Skynrd tune of a similar title (different state) and Moran gets to display his "guitar slinger" chops. Garchik's solo has a fiery and atonal edge while the blend of clarinet and trombone creates fascinating colors.
the four bags (all small letters, if you please) could be dubbed a chamber ensemble with roots in Weill, Nino Rota, 20th Century serial music, "pop" music and modern jazz. They impress with their blend of instrumental sounds, their fearless approach to repertoire, and their fine musicianship. Go "forth" with open ears and these bags will hold your attention each time you listen.
Here's what "forth" sounds like (courtesy of the band) - make up your own mind.