|(photo by Ben Allison)|
The opening set is at 8:30 p.m. and the second begins at 10 (separate admission charges for each). For ticket information, call 203-785-0468 or go to firehouse12.com. To learn more about Ben Allison and his music, go to benallison.com.
On this new project, Cardenas works with a splendid rhythm section of drummer Baron, bassist Thomas Morgan (who also worked with Paul Motian), and, on 3 tracks, trumpeter Shane Endsley. Upon first listen, what stands out is the crisp percussion, the excellent guitar accompaniments and Morgan's impressive bass work (he is so melodic). Baron does not imitate Motian but his work on the CD's ballads remind one of the spare style that his elder was well not for (it's shown to great example on tracks on the opening 2 tracks, "Just One More Time" and "New Moon", both Cardenas originals. The blend of guitar and bass (who is often playing counterpoint) is impressive throughout. The bluesy strut of "Ode To Joey" adds the trumpet to the mix - the piece shifts tempo several times but Baron's drumming guides all through the changes with no problem.
The program features a pair of Motian compositions, the sweet ballad "Once Around The Park" and the loping medium tempo of "In The Year of The Dragon." The late drummer's compositions have such fascinating melodies (quite singable - I'm surprised there are so few with lyrics); On "..Park", Morgan builds his solo off the theme and it really sparkles. There is a hint of Bobby Troup's "Route 66" in the melody of "...Dragon" - still, it's a subtle gesture on a program filled with subtleties.
There is a quartet of "standards" programmed one after another starting with the Victor Young/Sam Lewis 1932 classic "Street of Dreams" (the Trio performs the piece ever so slowly) moving to an up-tempo take of Lee Konitz's "Subconscious-Lee" (Endsley takes the lead and his bright tone works nicely with the muted sounds of the guitar.) Horace Silver's classic "Peace" is transformed into a gentle samba (the mix makes Baron's excellent percussion stand out as do Morgan's fine counterpoint phrases) which leads into a guitar/drums reading of Thelonious Monk's "Teo." Cardenas's crisp lines and harder sounds are a fine foil to Baron's crisp snare, splashing cymbals and thumping bass drum.
Don't approach "Melody in a Dream" expecting to be blown away by musical pyrotechnics or long, convoluted, solos. Take your time with this music, enjoy the fine drawn interactions, the sounds of the instruments, the various melodies and how the musicians explore these songs. The albums Steve Cardenas has created over the past decade show a musician who digs into songs to mine them them for their myriad possibilities and we, the listeners, are the benefactors of his musical research. To get a taste of this fine recording, go to sunnysidezone.com/album/melody-in-a-dream.