Monday, April 27, 2015

Quartet (CD + Live)

This Friday evening (May 1), Firehouse 12 in New Haven welcomes the John Raymond Quartet.  Trumpeter, flugelhornist, and composer, Raymond celebrates the release of his 2nd CD as a leader, "Foreign Territory" (Fresh Sound New Talent), also hits the stores (online and on the street) this week.  It's a wonderful album, featuring 6 Raymond compositions, 2 group improvisations, and 1 piece by the late Kenny Wheeler.  The band on the recording includes Dan Tepfer (piano), Joe Martin (bass) and master Billy Hart (drums).  What's exciting for those attending the live gig is that Raymond will have the same musicians on stage as on the record!

And, what an album. The music is invigorating, exploratory, exciting, emotionally rich, and never dull (no surprise, considering the personnel).  The program opens with the title track, introduced by the forceful bass work and propelled by the crisp drumming of Mr. Hart.  The drummer is the lynchpin of the music throughout the program, never settling for obvious patterns but surprising both musicians and listeners with his "swing" and wit.  Raymond includes a short trio (no trumpet) improv, "Hart of the Matter", a piece without trumpet that illustrates the drummer's innate ability to always be moving forward. The other improvisation, titled "Rest/Peace", opens with Raymond's lyrical flugelhorn atop the restless legato of the rhythm section and a rolling piano melody. Because of the lyrical bent of the participants, the track seems through-composed and not "composed" on the spot.

This music has so many delightful moments. The trumpet and bass introduce the theme of "Deeper" over Mr. Hart's dancing brush work; when Tepfer enters, he creates the counterpoint that propels the piece forward. Martin's melodic bass solo gives way to Raymond's pleasing jaunt (listen to how the drummer and pianist dance right along). The lengthy legato intro to "Chant" has a gravitas that gives way to the formal melody section that has a Native American feel, the bass lines (from both Martin and Tepfer) have a hypnotic feel that is heightened during the fine piano solo. The Wheeler piece, "Mark Time", has a winding melody line used forward by the muscular drive of the rhythm section. Raymond's trumpet solo features an exciting interaction with Tepfer's dancing piano lines  -still, listen to how Mr. Hart leads the band forward and then directs the piece to its quiet finish. The program closes with "Adventurous-Lee", a high-energy boppish piece with a cheery melody that shows the quartet at its best. There are moments when it seems like all 4 lock into the piece, then each goes their own way, then come back together in the true nature of jazz, exploratory and exciting.

John McNeil, whose production credits will soon rival those of his recording credits, produced this gem and one imagines all he needed to say was "Roll the tapes."  In many ways, "Foreign Territory" is "the sound of surprise" at its best.  Even when you return for the 10th or 100th time, you cannot escape how fresh this music is, how spontaneous and joyous in is execution, how good it feels to hear  musicians having fun "creating".  This music, created by John Raymond, Billy Hart, Dan Tepfer and Joe Martin,  may be "Foreign Territory" but one should have no fear of joining them on the journey.

For more information, go to  Check out the itinerary for the Quartet.  If you're in Connecticut and want to see this band live, go to or call 203-785-0468.

Enjoy the title tune:

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