On the Record

Written by City Arts on . Posted in Arts & Film.


Reviewing New Jazz Now

By Howard Mandel

The organizing principle behind this batch of records: They’re recent releases by NYC-based talents, recommended for originality and freshness. They’re all worth hearing more than once, and constitute discoveries. You don’t need to be told you’ll like Keith Jarrett’s solo Rio, right?

Roots Before Branches, by drummer Henry Cole and the Afrobeat Collective is a proud showing of current Nuyorican culture. His beats, solid even while shifty, are matched by bold yet detailed arrangements for ten or eleven players, different on each track. Repertoire shout-outs to Santana, Fela Kuti, poetry slams and late night space jams; spotlit saxophonists Miguel Zenón, David Sanchez, John Ellis and guitarist Adam Rogers don’t steal the thunder but add to the aura. “Uncovered Fear” is a mournful recitative (all vocals are in Spanish) with strings. The album, Cole’s first, is more ambitious than party music, but it’s that, too.

Steve Lehman is one smart, probing, distinctive alto saxophonist in our town full of them. His trio project Dialect Fluorescent, featuring bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Damion Reid, has warmth and bite, dynamic pace and confident if sometimes deceptively modest flourishes. Amid his own compositions, he imaginatively reconceives Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice” and burns on “Pure Imagination” (from the original Willie Wonka movie). Lehman is a Columbia grad student whose brilliance enhances his music rather than making it obscure or arrogant; he’s ensuring jazz’s future.

Less Magnetic, debuting with Trickology, comprises six new faces cohesively creating fast, furious, chopsy and loud neo-fusion with titles like “Civilized Decline” and “Terran Up Da Clubz.” Guitarist Gabriel Marin may be the standout soloist, but there are no slouches: alto saxist Jeremy Shaskus, tenor saxist Ben Cohen, keyboards player Campbell Charshee, electric bassist John Merritt and drummer Daniel Kurfirst fully share responsibilities and sense of purpose, like brainstorming teammates at an internet startup. Their charts are unconventionally synchronized, with depth and quiet thought adding substance to the flash. Listen and be wowed.

To read the full article at CityArts click here.

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