Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Ten Years & "Ten", the Album

In the Autumn of 2009, The Hartford Courant, the newspaper where I had been free-lancing for 13 years, moved in to the next phase of an endless time of layoffs.  My blog was closed down and, like many contemporary writers, critics, and reviewers, searched for a new outlet where I could write about the music and artists that caught my attention.  

Step Tempest was born on December 14, 2009, and has been closely following the contemporary music scene which, despite the economic hardships that many musicians deal with on a daily basis, continues to respond and predict the many moods of our often-crazy world. The posts have moved away (mostly) from posting live concerts close to where I live in Connecticut – there is a lively creative music scene with the continued successes of Firehouse 12 in New Haven (both as a recording studio and performance venue) plus the development of The Side Door in Old Lyme and The State House, also in New Haven.   

Much changed for me in my seventh decade.  I am now a grandfather (twice!), I have been adjunct faculty at Quinnipiac University since 2010. Our daughters have grown up and are now active members of their respective communities. Like many people, I have had my share of physical issues but most have disappeared.  I remain excited by the music I hear on a daily basis and am buoyed by the many friends I have made in the past decade. 

Thank you for reading!

Saxophonist-educator-radio show host Tom Tallitsch, both in Illinois and raised in Ohio, has been on the contemporary for two decades.  Currently living in Princeton, New Jersey, he maintains a busy schedule of private teaching as well as teaching piano to young people on the autism spectrum at the Princeton Child Development Institute.  His four CDs on Posi-Tone (2014, 14, 16, and 18) were, mostly, quintet affairs with excellent rhythm sections and songs that emphasized Tallitsch's melodic side.  He can "blow" with the best but has a bluesy, soulful, tone, especially on ballads, that stands out.  

His new album, "Ten", is his second release in 12 months to appear on his newly-revived personal label.  It's a quartet setting with guitarist Mike Kennedy, bassist Jason Fraticelli, and drummer Dan Monaghan, musicians who are all based in the Philadelphia, PA, area and all very busy.  All six pieces are composed by Tallitsch and each one is worth exploring.  The album opens with "Traveler", which prominently features Kennedy's guitar and the leader on soprano sax.  There's an open quality to the rhythm section but everyone digs in and the music becomes more intense as it scuttles forward.  Monaghan, in particular, really pushes the soloists but pay attention to the guitar underneath the sax solo responding to the energy his partners put out.  The rhythm section plus Kennedy leads the listener into the handsome ballad "Orange, Yellow, and Red" –  the mood is intensely bluesy and Tallitsch's tenor sax has a plaintive sound as he wends his way through the melody.  His solo pushes the band to push back yet the piece never boils over. Kennedy solos next, a blend of Bill Frisell-style "country" licks and blues riffs; never imitative but truly in line with the mood of the piece.  Fraticelli's short, powerful, solo precedes the move back to the theme for a final chorus.

What stands out through this program, whether the music is burning ("Ya Might Feel a Little Pressure") or soaring over a steady persistent beat ("North Shore") or pushing hard with rock overtones ("Lemmings"), is the urgency and interactions of the musicians. When Tom Tallitsch is soloing, the band is not only supporting him but also pushing him forward while creating intriguing backgrounds.  The use of guitar instead of piano in this band frees the composer-arranger to create compositions that give the quartet a broad audioscape to create the colors and moods that permeate the music: also, the music often escapes any definable genre. Let the sounds of "Ten" flow over and through you – satisfaction guaranteed!!

For more information about the saxophonist plus links to "The Modern Jazz Radio Show" (which originates on WWFM-Jazz on 2 from Trenton, New Jersey), go to  

Here's the opening track of "Ten": 

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