Reviews that mention Drew Gress

January 7, 2017

Festival Report

Jazzdor
By Ken Waxman

Appropriately the mid-point of Festival Jazzdor’s second week was November 11, when ceremonies honor soldiers who died during both world wars. Reflecting music’s universality though, Strasbourg’s Jazzdor presented several concerts in nearby Offenburg, Germany throughout the festival. This is despite the fact that Strasbourg, a French city of unique Alsatian meals and mixed French and German architecture, atmosphere and street signs, is in a region conquered by Germany from 1870-1917 and 1940-1944. MORE

November 11, 2016

Claudia Quintet

Super Petite
Cuneiform Records Rune 427

By Ken Waxman

Acclaimed long before he joined the faculty of McGill’s Schulich School of Music last year, with Super Petite American composer-percussionist John Hollenbeck indicates one of many reasons why a Donald Trump-obsessed United States’ loss is our gain. Consisting of 10 tracks which are meticulously crafted as if shaped by a master diamond cutter, each manages to convey a flowing simplicity, but includes enough worldly sonic jolts to stave off placidity.

Tunes such as “JFK Beagle” and “Newark Beagle” for instance use accordionist Red Wierenga’s tremolo shimmers to replicate a canine’s exuberance, while their serious airport-sniffing work is characterized by a stringent tone conveyed by tenor saxophonist Chris Speed. Alternately if Drew Gress’s walking double bass grounds the movement of those on the A-List, then squeeze-box surges lustily underlie the swing in the step of the participants. Although the titles are evocative, tracks aren’t really programmatic but are there to balance the players’ interpretative skills. For instance Speed’s clarinet line that stretches outwards like a fire hose defines the near-static mood piece that is Mangold as effectively as melded vibes-accordion ripples atop percussion pops. MORE

December 11, 2015

Samuel Blaser Quartet

Spring Rain
Whirlwind Recordings WR 4620

By Ken Waxman

Like the bird which is able to replicate others’ songs, trombonist Samuel Blaser is crafty enough to adopt particular musical persona for each project. On Spring Rain for instance the Swiss-born, Berlin-based Samuel Blaser honors Jimmy Giuffre’s early ‘60s trio with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow by recording five of its tunes plus seven originals in that chamber jazz style. On his recent A Mirror to Machaut (Songlines), he performed a similar feat, sophisticatedly re-imagined early Renaissance motifs for the 21st century. But in practice, the trombonist’s results differ convincingly from those of the imitative fowl. With canny arrangements and expressive skills, Spring Rain’s program is cunningly original, even as tunes composed by Giuffre and Carla Bley are interpreted. MORE

December 1, 2015

Samuel Blaser Quartet

Spring Rain
Whirlwind Recordings WR 4620

By Ken Waxman

An original variant on the practice of saluting earlier jazz heroes by recording their tunes, Swiss-born, Berlin-based trombonist Samuel Blaser honors Jimmy Giuffre’s early 1960s trio with pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow, by recording five of its tunes plus seven originals in restrained chamber jazz style. But even as Blaser empathizes with the particular sound constructed by compositions Giuffre and Carla Bley wrote for the trio, he’s like a chair designer modernizing the ergonomics concepts of 50 years ago to 2015. MORE

June 6, 2015

Artist Feature

Samuel Blaser
By Ken Waxman

Swiss-born trombonist Samuel Blaser maintains strong North American ties that extend far beyond the musicians on Spring Rain (Whirlwind), his newest CD. While the disc, dedicated to Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008) feature all-American backing from keyboardist Russ Lossing, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Gerald Cleaver, one of his frequent trans-Atlantic trips bring him to NYC this month for a series of gigs with other long-time associates such as drummer Harris Eisenstadt, bassist Michael Bates and tenor saxophonist Michael Blake – all Canadians. “It’s like a big family” says Blaser, 33. “I like to draw upon the same members in many of my bands.” MORE

June 9, 2014

Samuel Blaser/Benoît Delbecq/Gerry Hemingway

Fourth Landscape
Nuscope CD 1027

Samuel Blaser Consort in Motion

A Mirror to Machaut

Songlines SGL 1604-2

Making a big noise for himself – literally – is Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser, who in the past half-decade has moved from regularly working with local players to solidifying an international profile. These two fine discs, recorded within a month of one another and both featuring expatriate American drummer Gerry Hemingway, go a long way towards explaining Blaser’s appeal. MORE

April 2, 2014

Tom Rainey

Obbligato
Intakt Records CD 227

Douglas/Doxas/Swallow/Doxas

Riverside

Greenleaf Music GLM 1036

Flex Bent Braam

Lucebert

BBBCD 16

The Whammies

Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 2

Driff Records CD 1303

Braxtornette Project

Die Hochstapler

Umlaut Records ub004

Something In The Air: A New Take on Standards – Jazz and Otherwise

By Ken Waxman

Since jazz’s beginnings, the measure of a musician’s talent has not only been how well the person improvises, but also how he or she interprets standards. In the 21st century a standard song has evolved past its Tin Pan Alley origins, plus distinctive purely jazz compositions have entered the canon. But while more conservative players treat standards as immutable, the CDs here are noteworthy because their creators distinctively re-imagine standards. MORE

March 23, 2014

Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble

A Trumpet in the Morning
New World Records 80752-2

Given a rare opportunity to show off his composing and arranging skills in a big band context, multi-reedist Marty Ehrlich accepts the challenge here. But in re-casting material for more than a dozen musicians he demonstrates the superiority of some of his compositions over others. It’s not that there’s any second-rate music here. But the tunes composed for college and high school ensembles maintain their academic and pedagogical roots. They’re pleasing yet simplistic performances without the depth and compositional sophistication of the other material. MORE

April 21, 2013

Angelica Sanchez Quintet

Wires and Moss
Clean Feed CF 259 CD

Nick Fraser

Towns and Villages

Barnyard Records BR 0330

Arriving in New York from his native Tucson in 1995, Tony Malaby has since made his distinctive tenor and soprano saxophone tones part of that city’s scene, both with his own bands and as a sideman – most notably with bassist Mark Helias’ trio. His high- quality improvisations are featured on both these CDs, although he does have much closer ties to one leader than the other.

That’s because pianist Angelica Sanchez, who also composed Wires and Moss’s half-dozen tracks, is Malaby’s spouse, as well as being a respected jazzer in her own right. Another session reflecting her unique vision, the disc unites the two with a top rhythm section of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey plus French guitarist Marc Ducret. A responsive time-keeper who composed all the titles on his CD, Toronto-based drummer Nick Fraser calls on Malaby’s skills more platonically on Canadian Towns and Villages. The distinctiveness of this CD comes from the juxtaposition of his and the saxman’s instruments with those played by two other Toronto-based musicians. The distinctive timbres of Andrew Downing’s cello and Rob Clutton’s bass are both cleverly worked into the arrangements. MORE

June 15, 2011

Gerald Cleaver Uncle June

Be It As I See It
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT-375

Program music that avoids the expected, drummer Gerald Cleaver’s Be It As I See It is a finely formed meditation that makes purely musical points. Although based on the Great Migration of American Blacks from the South to the North from the 1920s onwards, Detroit-born, New York-based Cleaver, whose immediate family was involved in the journey, has created a magisterial chamber work which carefully avoids clichés. There are no allusions to south-of-the Mason-Dixon agrarian nostalgia or attempts to musically recreate the gritty urban north. MORE

January 11, 2010

James Carney Group

Ways & Means
Songlines SGL SA 1580-2

Steve Lehman Octet

Travail, Transformation, and Flow

Pi Records P130

At least since the flexibility of a little big band was demonstrated in Miles Davis’ 1949 Birth of the Cool sessions musicians have utilized that formation when they want to expand their compositional reach without getting involved in the sometimes ponderous arrangements needed for an official big band.

Two stellar examples of the adaptable colors and rhythms available from seven- or eight-piece bands are these CDs by New York-based improvisers. Although both impressively extend sonic visions through the solos of some of Manhattan’s top players and crafty arrangements, overall alto saxophonist Steve Lehman’s Travail, Transformation, and Flow has the edge. Concerned with displaying the nuanced harmonics and overtones available from an assimilation of spectral music, the freshness of his arrangements and compositions trumps keyboardist James Carney’s scores on Ways & Means. Not that Carney’s conceptions are anyway second rate. It’s just that the compositions are shaped and performed in a contemporary jazz fashion in such a way that the results are expected and almost too familiar. You can almost see the parts clank and shudder into place. Perhaps “see” is the key word here as well, since Carney describes the Chamber Music America-commissioned Ways & Means as designed to be a movie in sound. MORE

January 11, 2010

Steve Lehman Octet

Travail, Transformation, and Flow
Pi Records P130

James Carney Group

Ways & Means

Songlines SGL SA 1580-2

At least since the flexibility of a little big band was demonstrated in Miles Davis’ 1949 Birth of the Cool sessions musicians have utilized that formation when they want to expand their compositional reach without getting involved in the sometimes ponderous arrangements needed for an official big band.

Two stellar examples of the adaptable colors and rhythms available from seven- or eight-piece bands are these CDs by New York-based improvisers. Although both impressively extend sonic visions through the solos of some of Manhattan’s top players and crafty arrangements, overall alto saxophonist Steve Lehman’s Travail, Transformation, and Flow has the edge. Concerned with displaying the nuanced harmonics and overtones available from an assimilation of spectral music, the freshness of his arrangements and compositions trumps keyboardist James Carney’s scores on Ways & Means. Not that Carney’s conceptions are anyway second rate. It’s just that the compositions are shaped and performed in a contemporary jazz fashion in such a way that the results are expected and almost too familiar. You can almost see the parts clank and shudder into place. Perhaps “see” is the key word here as well, since Carney describes the Chamber Music America-commissioned Ways & Means as designed to be a movie in sound. MORE

April 2, 2009

Alban Darche

Trumpet Kingdom
BMC CD 136

The MacroQuarktet

Each Part a Whole

Ruby Flowers RF06CD

Brass improvisation in duo or trio forms characterize these two sessions. Both take advantage of trumpet and other horns’ timbres. However the American MacroQuarktet is engrossed in sound patterns available from sonic interaction, while the Hungarian-Belgian-French octet led by Gallic tenor saxophonist Alban Darche is cast in the more familiar form of a modern jazz showcase.

Darche, who composed all the tunes save one here, designed the CD to exhibit how he and follow French musicians – bassist Sébastien Boisseau, drummer Emmanuel Birault, woodwind player Sylvain Rifflet – plus Pécs-born guitarist Gábor Gadó, now based in France, react to the input of different trumpet soloists. While the results are impressive, if not outstanding, the irony is, that except in a matter of degrees, none of the prize-winning trumpeters – Eric Vloeimans from the Netherlands, Belgian Laurent Blondiau and Geoffroy Tamisier from France – sound that different from one another. MORE

April 2, 2009

The MacroQuarktet

Each Part a Whole
Ruby Flowers RF06CD

Alban Darche

Trumpet Kingdom

BMC CD 136

Brass improvisation in duo or trio forms characterize these two sessions. Both take advantage of trumpet and other horns’ timbres. However the American MacroQuarktet is engrossed in sound patterns available from sonic interaction, while the Hungarian-Belgian-French octet led by Gallic tenor saxophonist Alban Darche is cast in the more familiar form of a modern jazz showcase.

Darche, who composed all the tunes save one here, designed the CD to exhibit how he and follow French musicians – bassist Sébastien Boisseau, drummer Emmanuel Birault, woodwind player Sylvain Rifflet – plus Pécs-born guitarist Gábor Gadó, now based in France, react to the input of different trumpet soloists. While the results are impressive, if not outstanding, the irony is, that except in a matter of degrees, none of the prize-winning trumpeters – Eric Vloeimans from the Netherlands, Belgian Laurent Blondiau and Geoffroy Tamisier from France – sound that different from one another. MORE

February 13, 2006

THE CLAUDIA QUINTET

Semi-Formal
Cuneiform Rune 217

Establishing himself as an in-demand percussionist and band leader, New York-based John Hollenbeck usually has several parallel projects on the go. While being on-call in both his roles for associates as different as Meredith Monk, pianist Fred Hersch, the Bang on a Can All-Stars and even Klezmer Madness proves his adaptability, it sometimes adds unforeseen pressures to his own bands.

Thus while The Claudia Quintet, which has been together since 1997, is a cohesive ensemble, you sometimes get the feeling that a few too many influences are on show. Subsequent tunes ping-pong from New music inflections to Middle Eastern slurs and from contrapuntal jazz time to floating Klangfarbenmelodie that abuts AMM-like minimalist territory. MORE

March 14, 2005

KEVIN NORTON’S BAUHAUS QUARTET

Time-Space Modulator
Barking Hoop BKH-008

TONY MALABY TRIO
Adobe
Sunnyside Records SSC 1137

Evolving his improvising from the odd side of convention, while maintaining a healthy respect for tradition, soprano and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby could be the successor to Joe Lovano in terms of being an all-around, advanced inside player.

Like the older woodwind player, he teaches sax workshops, is on call as a sidemen for many bands as well as his own, interprets standards, jazz and otherwise, as well as writing his own material. Heck, with his girth and beard he could pass for Lovano’s kid brother. MORE

October 18, 2004

URI CAINE TRIO

Live at the Village Vanguard
Winter & Winter 910 102-2

Finally the CD for which long-time fans of pianist Uri Caine have been waiting.

Not that his improvisational orchestral reworking of so-called classical music by Richard Wagner, J. S. Bach and Gustav Mahler isn’t impressive -- as a matter of fact it offers a whole new perspective on that music. It’s just that those who recall Caine’s playing as far back as the mid-1990s realize that he’s a dynamic jazz pianist. Now in a trio, rounded out by bassist Drew Gress and drummer Ben Perowsky, LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD lets him expand that part of his identity. MORE

June 7, 2004

FRED HERSCH

Fred Hersch Trio + 2
Palmetto Records PM 2099

Back in 1977, as a change of pace, pianist Bill Evans added saxophonists Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh to his trio of the time for CROSSCURRENTS, a Fantasy LP that amplified and enhanced his usual sounds.

Fred Hersch, who is arguably Evans’ heir in subtle inventiveness, does almost the same thing on this CD. The results are outstanding, giving an added robustness to the pianist’s compositions, which have a tendency to be overly fragile and prosaically mainstream in other situations. MORE

February 23, 2004

ANGELICA SANCHEZ

Mirror Me
OmniTone 12203

TONY MALABY
Apparitions
Songlines SGL SA 1545-2

Commentators often ascribe a certain innate togetherness to the playing of married couples who record together, which in reality is no more than the sort of sympatico feelings band members can express for one another. More critically, husband and wife musicians can and should develop separate musical personalities.

That’s the fascination and interest in MIRROR ME and APPARITIONS. For while Jersey City, N.J. saxophonist Tony Malaby and pianist Angelica Sanchez have been married since 1998 and together for years before that, their albums aren’t that much similar than any two others by a pianist and saxophonist. The tenor and soprano man may play on his better half’s CD, in fact, but the outcome is different. MORE

April 14, 2003

FRED HERSCH

Live at the Village Vanguard
Palmetto PM 2088

GUIDO MANUSARDI TRIO
Sienna Concert
Splasc (H) CD H 519.2

Two takes on the contemporary jazz piano trio recorded in concert provide an object lesson in how early participants and younger re-inventors approach this genre of music, and what they do to make it their own.

Surprisingly, after listening to these discs it would appear that the old-timer has a slight edge. Working with a couple of other veterans, Italian pianist Guido Manusardi who was around for the modern style’s first flowering, brings a swinging liveliness to his program of standards and highlights from his longtime repertoire. MORE

February 22, 2002

JAMES EMERY

Fourth World
between the lines btl020/EFA10190-2

Guitarist James Emery has finally produced a memorable session of superior chamber jazz under his own leadership after several earlier missteps. However, the acoustic stylist, who has been the paramount exemplar of a group musician during his more than 20 years as a founding member of the String Trio of New York, appears to have done so by ceding most of the spotlight to others.

Throughout most of the nine tracks of this disc -- four of which he wrote -- master saxophonist Joe Lovano has the major role. Not only does he play his customary tenor and soprano saxophones, but also the C melody saxophone, straight alto saxophones, alto clarinet, shakers, gongs, bells, log drums and even the drum set. His wife, Judi Silvano, adds her shaded wordless vocalese throughout as well. There are times here, in fact, when Emery seems to have put himself in a position like that of another acoustic guitarist, Charlie Byrd, vis-a-vis the famous Jazz Samba LP with Stan Getz. Although they were both co-leaders of that 1962 date, Getz’s nuanced tenor playing gained all the notoriety that accrued from first playing the bossa nova, and when Byrd’s solo was excised from the hit version of “Desafinado” many forget the guitarist was there at all. MORE

January 8, 2002

JOHN HOLLENBECK

No Images
CRI Blueshift 2002

JOHN HOLLENBECK
Quartet Lucy
CRI Blueshift 2003

JOHN HOLLENBECK
The Claudia Quartet
CRI Blueshift 2004

Moving among improv, big band jazz, New music and song-based material, percussionist/composer John Hollenbeck has made a name for himself in New York over the past half-decade. During that time, Hollenbeck, who also has a master’s degree from Rochester’s Eastman School of Music has worked with folks as varied as dancer/composer Meredith Monk, arranger Bob Brookmeyer, “downtown” trumpeter Cuong Vu and Klezmer brassman Frank London. MORE