Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Flurry of Recommendations (Part 2)

"Fourteen" (Pi Recordings) is the fifth CD that Dan Weiss (drums, percussion, compositions) has issued  and the first with more than 3 musicians; in fact, the title refers to the number of participants.  His Trio partners, pianist Jacob Sacks and bassist Thomas Morgan, are here as is his duo partner, guitarist Miles Okazaki.  Joining them are Matt Mitchell (glockenspiel, organ, piano, clapping), David Binney (alto saxophone), Ohad Talmor (tenor sax), Jacob Garchik (trombone, tuba), Ben Gerstein (trombone), Katie Andrews (harp), Stephen Cellucci (percussion, clapping) and the vocal trio of Lana Cenčić, Judith Berkson and Maria Neckam.  The music is divided into 7 "Parts" with moments that sound like "progressive rock" from the 1970s, sections that reflect Weiss's lifelong interest in Indian drumming, limpid vocals that recall Steve Reich, quiet passages of acoustic guitar with glockenspiel ("Part Two") or tuba with trombone ("Part Five"), majestic piano melodies over a forceful rhythm section ("Part Six"), and long tones that juxtapose voice, piano and trombone ("Part 7"). 

The best way to experience "Fourteen" is to start at the beginning and listen to the end (just under 38 minutes).  Some of the moments are soft and lovely, others hard and stark but the overall experience is cathartic, a cleansing of the mind and, even, a sense of rebirth.  In so many ways, "Fourteen" is a reflection on living in unsettled times.  Dan Weiss has created a master work, one that reverberates long after the last quiet notes fade.  For more information, go to or  

Pianist/composer Leslie Pintchik writes music that asks the listener to relax, block out the everyday world and our performances will entertain without ever speaking down to you. "In the Nature of Things" (Pintch Hard Records) is her 4th recording as a leader and it's quite a treat. First of all, Ms. Pintchik has a dynamite rhythm section, with long-time associates Scott Hardy (bass, horn arrangements) and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion) plus Michael Sarin (drums).  Saxophonist Steve Wilson (soprano, alto), who appeared on the pianist's second album is back, joined here on the front line by Ron Horton (trumpet, flugelhorn) - they appear on 6 of the 9 tracks.

There's an airy quality to the majority of the tracks, a spaciousness that suggests contemplation yet also an intensity created by the joyful interaction of the musicians.  On first listen, the standout track is "I'd Turn Back If I Were You", with its Crescent City groove and splendid piano work (there are seriously low notes at the end of each chorus).  Wilson and Horton get in the groove, adding colorful splotches atop Sarin's dancing drums.  After several listens, one's attention is arrested by the truly delightful quartet reading of Lerner & Loewe's "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face".  Takeishi and Sarin mesh well, the quiet hand percussion (bells and blocks) alongside the splendid brush and cymbals supporting the pianist.  Hardy, who first worked with Ms. Pintchik as a guitarist, is quite the melodic bass, his full tones filling the spaces beneath the gentle piano chords.

Wilson and Horton share the theme section of the Brazilian-infuenced "Luscious" - after a fine piano solo, the saxophonist plays a lively solo on soprano.  Horton takes a spirited solo on "Sparkle" followed by Wilson, this time flying above the rhythm section on alto.  Several of the tracks use the reeds and brass as either counterpoint or for adding extra shading in the background.

Do make sure to pay attention to the pianist, especially her fine solos.  Ms. Pintchik may not be a flashy soloist but she can certainly swing (the live version of "There You Go" that closes the disk is ample evidence of her ability.) She is also exceptionally melodic, not unlike Dr. Denny Zeitlin. Listen to how she sets the table for Horton and Wilson on "Ripe", giving them the first 2 solos before stepping into her own fine statement.

In the liner notes, Leslie Pintchik acknowledges the influence of Herbie Hancock's 1968 Blue Note recording "Speak Like a Child", not so much in the instrumentation as in the approach to the material, the prominent role of the rhythm section (Ron Carter and Micky Roker with Hancock) and her solos, which often stay in the middle of the keyboard.  "In The Nature of Things" is inspiring and comforting music, well worth exploring time and again.  For more information, go to

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