Friday, February 17, 2012

Quartet and Trio Music; Well-done Fun

Bassist-composer Josh Ginsburg, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, has just issued his debut CD.  "Zembla Variations" (BJU Records) features George Colligan (piano, Fender Rhodes), Eli Degibri (soprano and tenor saxophones) and Rudy Royston (drums) playing a program of tunes all composed by the leader.  The first impression of this music is how interactive the musicians are, how they "converse"throughout the program and how strong the melodies are.  The title track ("Zembla" comes from Vladimir Nabokov's book "Pale Fire" and is the fictional name of the lead character's homeland) opens with a long bass solo over tolling piano chords before Colligan takes off over Royston's highly-charged drumming.  Degibri does not enter until 2/3rds of the way through the track and bring the piece to an intense climax. The Israeli-born saxophonist (recently named co-artistic director of the 2012 Red Sea Jazz festival) plays a strong soprano sax solo on the opening track "PushBar (for Emergency Exit)" - as he does throughout the CD, Royston is a firebrand, pushing the soloists to dig in to their solos.  Colligan, who fronts a Trio that features Ginsburg, also shines brightly, whether supplying active chordal figures
behind the bowed bass and tenor sax dialogue on "Koan" or creating a shimmering solo on "Oxygen".  His unpredictable turns on the bluesy and energetic "10,000 Leagues" make for fun listening.  His Fender Rhodes work on the soulful "Gently" gives the piece a lighter quality that allows the fine melody to stand out.  Degibri's rolling tenor lines and Ginsburg's highly melodic solo stand out as well. Then, there's "Red Giant"; with Royston leading the way, the tune explodes out of the speakers, leaving the listener exhilarated.

People complain that jazz is not relevant or exciting - those folks need to sit down for a generous helping of Josh Ginsburg's "Zembla Variations."  Intelligent, melodic, exciting, mature 21st Century music that makes one smile. To find out more, go to

Here's the funky, delectable, "Jakewalk", courtesy of Mr. Ginsburg and Bandcamp:

The October Trio - Evan Arntzen (tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet), Dan Gaucher (drums) and Josh Cole (drums) - came together as an ensemble in 2004 in Vancouver.  "New Dream" (Songlines) is their 4th CD, a project that took several years to come
to fruition yet the music is exciting and cohesive.  The Trio breathes as one on tunes such as "Do Your Thing", with Arntzen's lively soprano weaving around the thick bass lines and slippery drum work. "Imagine It" is a funky, bouncy and somewhat raucous take on a piece by The Dirty Projectors while the Trio reaches in to Bjork's song bag for the handsome ballad "You've Been Flirting Again." The interplay of clarinet, bass and drums reminds me of the work of Henry Threadgill with Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall in Trio Air (there's also an "airy" quality clarinet that may remind some of Jimmy Guiffre)  Nothing is rushed, no cliches, an emotionally rich reading of the melody with solos that overlap. You hear that as well in "The Park", its circular melody line played at different times by each member of the band.  The melody floats as the rhythm moves forward yet there is a dream-like quality to the piece.  Cole's full bass tone fills out the bottom, allowing Gaucher to play at different levels, moving from soft fills to accentuating the melody.  There's a funky feel to "Potential Bog", the overdubbed reeds playing a repetitive lines that pushes against the "heavy" drums and Cole's booming bass.

"New Dream" isn't very long; its 8 tracks clock in at 41:32.  Still, there is so much happening in this music it's easy to hit the "repeat" button and take it in again.   One can hear the joy of 3 friends making music that is meaningful and fun.  How pleasing!
Here's the title track courtesy of The October Trio and Bandcamp:

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