|J A Z Z W O R D R E V I E W S
|Reviews that mention Nasheet Waits
nWog Records NWOG 005
Tony Bevan/Joe Morris/Tony Buck/Dominic Lash
Foghorn FOGCD 016
Pumped up past the expected, despite the common saxophone-guitar-bass-drums configuration are these CDs. Although each features an American playing with a European unit, the path to quality is achieved by different routes.
In one case perhaps visiting Boston guitarist Joe Morris could be the spark plug for the extended go-for-broke improvising on Tony-Joe Bucklash, since the three other British players have singly and together frequently recorded outstanding work in the past. Besides Morris, known for his association with the likes of bassist William Parker and saxophonist Joe Maneri, Oxford-based reedist Tony Bevan is not only one of the (few) masters of the bass saxophone, but equally proficient on tenor and soprano. Berlin-based Aussie drummer Tony Buck is a long-time member of the Necks; while bassist Dominic Lash is busy in both New York and London. Rather than Morris being the only special guest, this CD also marks the first recorded meeting by Bevan with both bassist and drummer.
Co-op band NoReduce on the other hand is a working group featuring three Swiss musicians and a New Yorker drummer, recorded in New York. Again, while drummer Nasheet Waits has gigged with everyone from pianist Jason Moran to saxophonist Sam Rivers, the young Europeans have extensive experience as well. A member of the Lucerne Jazz Orchestra, tenor saxophonist Christoph Irniger leads his own bands and works in many others. Bassist Raffaele Bossard has played with alto saxophonist Tobias Meier among others, while guitarist Dave Gisler works in many contexts.
Gisler doesn’t have the distinctive style of a Morris, yet in many ways his plasticity which range from methodical licks to buzzy lead guitar-like motions help the band’s slowly gelling definition. For instance his continuous chording sets the mood on “Playground” along with clip-clop drumming and a walking bass line. By the time Gisler introduces spidery double-string runs, the saxophonist has hardened the tone of his hitherto wispy blowing to expose repeated slurs which are met by guitar fills and cymbal crashes. There’s a similar strategy at work on “The Slope”, but it’s Bossard’s power plucks and Watts’ rolling drags and ratamacues which define the exposition. Meanwhile sharp guitar quivers and saxophone vibratos creating rougher theme variations, until the drummer’s climatic pops plus cymbal slaps propel the improvisation back to the head. On the other hand, “Morningside Road” features near-ethereal guitar and sax harmonies that before they circle back to linear reed sighs and guitar fills at the finale, open up the piece to staccato split tones from Irniger and tough bounces from the drummer.
If the still embryonic NoReduce suggests earlier quartet antecedents from Stan Getz and Jimmy Raney to John Coltrane and Elvin Jones as it defines its identity, the other quartet is fully committed to a Free Music ethos, but constructs an original identity within the genre. Pushing aside a tendency to overdo freneticism with bugle-call-like riffs from Bevan, strained tremors from Morris and protracted percussion emphasis, the four carve a polyphonic narrative from inchoate expansions by blending their parts in parallel patterning.
The quartet attains its most profound confluence on the more-than 35 minute “Out of the Rising Sun”. With Lash’s buzzing string slices and Buck’s crashes and bounces as a backdrop, Morris’ stressed strums test the limits of guitar experience, adding arpeggiated runs and hand pumps to his exposition. Meanwhile Bevan vibrates tenor glisses that are as abstract as they are stressed. Initially in broken octave concordance with the reed man, as the guitarist’s slurred fingering deconstructs his lines so they become narrower and spikier, Bevan counters with his big gun: the bass saxophone. Percussive, persuasive and pummeling his wind-breaking chalumeau and tree-top-high altissimo intensity repeatedly makes anything that could have been output by pioneering R&B honkers Leo Parker or Paul Williams seems like polite background music. Buck’s cymbal shattering and Lash’s brawny pumps join the multiphonic reed-masticator, nearly rendering the guitarist inaudible. When Morris finally asserts himself again his pile-driver plinks add the needed impetus to make the ending distinctive and satisfactorily collegial.
A fine first effort, Jaywalkin’ offer some perceptive tracks and solos, but lacks the self-possessed identity that a veteran troupe would have. If the band members stick together it will come. As for Tony-Joe Bucklash, this meeting is a representative instance of free-for-all improvising. But the same proviso stands. If the four can convene more frequently the result will probably even put this first-rate disc in the shade.
Track Listing: Tony-Joe: 1. Out of the Rising Sun 2. Into the Rising Sun
Personnel: Tony-Joe: Tony Bevan (soprano, tenor and bass saxophones); Joe Morris (guitar); Dominic Lash (bass) and Tony Buck (drums)
Track Listing: Jaywalkin: 1. Endangered 2. The Slope 3. Playground 4. Far Away But Close Enough 5. Dope Factory 6. Jaywalkin’ 7. Morningside Road 8. The Mouse
Personnel: Jaywalkin: Christoph Irniger (tenor saxophone); Dave Gisler (guitar); Raffaele Bossard (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums)
April 16, 2013
Organ Monk: Uwo in the Black
No label No #
For someone who was initially mocked as a pianist while grudgingly praised for his compositions, the 30 years since Thelonious Monk’s death have seen numerous pianists struggling with playing his tunes properly because their interpretation is either too close to Monk’s or too far removed.
Greg Lewis negates the conundrum by sticking to his main instrument – the Hammond organ – on this tribute to Monk’s music. Additionally he adapts the nine Monk originals and four of his own compositions here to the parameters of the combo in which he regularly plays in New York clubs like the 55 Bar, Lennox Lounge and The Night of the Cookers. With hard-toned tenor saxophonist Reginald R. Woods, supplely swinging guitarist Ronald Jackson and the originality of drummer Nasheet Waits onboard, he brings Monk uptown where the High Priest of Bebop started his career. By exposing the funk underlay of Monk’s compositions, this original conception is a superior tribute to the man’s music, enhancing with more nuance than any number of piano-centred discs demonstrate.
A native New Yorker, who regularly plays organ at an AME church, Lewis’ other gigs range from backing singers such as blues artist Sweet Georgia Brown to membership in saxophonist Sam Newsome's Groove Project. Waits, with whom Lewis has played on-and-off for a quarter century, his best-known associate here, is a percussionist at home downtown as well as up, having worked with advanced improvisers such as bassist William Parker and saxophonists Peter Brötzmann.
Because of the elasticity of all the players plus the division of the combo into subsets like organ-drums, organ-guitar-drums, and organ-guitar-saxophone-drums, such Monk standards as “Bright Mississippi”, “Ugly Beauty” and “Crepuscule with Nellie” are given new life as funky riffs. The first tune, for instance, is broken up with boudoir tenor saxophone slurs and sighs from Woods following a serene head statement, then jagged pulsations from the organist and ringing single-note licks from the guitarist. The intermezzo which is “Crepuscule with Nellie” coats the melody with nearly opaque flutters and quivering glissandi from Lewis as Waits clumps out a backbeat hardened by further bass pedal work from the organist. Finally while there may be too much emphasis on the “beauty” and not enough on “ugly” on the third tune, the saxophonist’s intense slurps accelerate enough to harmonize with Lewis’ furry line pumping which regularizes the performance. On his own, as in the run through of “Thelonious”, Waits’ well-paced drags and stick motions maintains the rhythmic bottom, as Lewis’ head exposition widens as it vibrates, suggesting snatches of other tunes in his solo.
As a composer, Lewis is no Monk, but his originals such as “In the Black - My Nephew” and “Zion's Walk” hold their own in fast company. Unpretentious and continuously floating on double-keyboard murmurs and mushrooming tremolos, the first tune makes its way from a nearly overwrought “My Funny Valentine”-like vibrato to a soothing diminuendo, as Waits knits together press rolls and repetitive cymbal clatters while Woods’ reed work is as splintered as it is intense. Named for Lewis’ younger son, “Zion's Walk” is appropriately bouncy in the organist’s keyboard pops as Waits complements the line with positioned accents and a series of spectacular breaks.
Quirky in its own way, Organ Monk: Uwo in the Black may be the only Monk tribute sought out by funky organ combo fans; and the only organ session that excites Monk followers.
Track Listing: 1. Little Rootie Tootie 2. In the Black-My Nephew 3. Humph 4. Skippy5. Ugly Beauty 6. Zion's Walk 7. GCP 8. Stuffy Turkey 9. Bright Mississippi 10. Thelonious 11. Why Not 12. Crepuscule with Nellie 13. Teo 14. 52nd Street Theme
Personnel: Reginald R. Woods (tenor saxophone); Greg “Organ Monk” Lewis (Hammond organ); Ronald Jackson (guitar) and Nasheet Waits (drums and cymbals)
November 16, 2012
Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers Ensemble
Paal Nilssen-Love, Mesele Asmamaw, Mats Gustafsson
Terp Records AIS-19
Apprise Records AP-05
ACT Music ACT 9513-2
Something in the Air: Provocative Ethnic Blends
By Ken Waxman
Product of musical miscegenation, jazz has always been most welcome to sound influences. Meanwhile much of so-called ethnic music, especially from non-Western countries, features some variants of improvisation. Blending the freedom of jazz with aleatory additions from other cultures produces provocative sounds as these CDs attest. Yet all are noteworthy because, rather than using either music as mere exotica or rhythmic overlay, each is performed with the same respect.
Indian-American alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa has dealt with his dual heritage before, but on Samdhi ACT Music ACT 9513-2 recorded jut after he had attended an intensive 2½-week Carnatic music festival in India, is upfront with the inclusion of the mridangam and kanjira drum playing of “Anad” Anantha Krishnan. Not willing to settle for mere Indo-Jazz lines, Mahanthappa also recruited guitarist David Gilmore and drummer Damion Reid plus Toronto electric bassist Rich Brown to lay down the sort of funk-inflected licks they would bring to a jazz-rock session. The most emblematic example of this is simply titled “Ahhh”. On the surface it sounds like a folksy tune with Mahanthappa’s saxophone taking the singer’s role. Yet beneath the folksiness Krishnan is pumping and double tapping as if he was on a Mumbai-recorded session, while at mid-point Gilmore and Brown churn double-timed licks as if preparing for an R&B gig. Meantime Mahanthappa’s reed line echoes as if he’s playing with a Varitone attachment. Still the arrangement here is traditional enough to include a recapped head. A similar strategy is used on “Killer”, but there sax timbres reflect both jazzy slurs and a snake-charmer’s flute’s quivers. Overall the feature includes echoing vamps from Gilmore and Brown, heavy bashing from Reid and some shuddering frame-drum licks. With other tracks ranging from the mid-tempo ballad “For all the Ladies”, that includes delicate finger-style licks from Gilmore mixed with Carnatic beats, to “Breakfastlunchanddinne” suggesting what avant saxophonist Ornette Coleman would sound like if he played in a session built on powerful drum pops and twanging guitar runs, the sonic permutations and innovations of this CD are nearly limitless.
So too are the polyphonic textures expressed by Iraqi-American trumpeter Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers Ensemble in a suite inspired by the ancient Mesopotamian god of carnal love and warfare that is Inana PI Pi41 Mahanthappa was initially a member of this ensemble but has been replaced by saxophonist Ole Mathisen. ElSaffer who studied Mangam vocalizing and playing the santour or hammered dulcimer in Iraq, utilizes Middle Eastern currents alongside his microtonal trumpet skills. The sextet is filled out by bassist Carlo DeRosa and drummer Nasheet Waits plus two experts in Arabic modal scales: oudist/percussionist Zafer Tawil and Tareq Abboushi who plays buzuq or fretted lute. Throughout Mesopotamian rhythms jostle against Balkan horn patterns, co-existing next to double bass slaps and percussion backbeats. Thus lockstep Europeanized harmonies often abut frenetic cadenzas from the soloists. Yet even at their most “ethnic”, Abboushi’s rasgueado string movements coupled with Mathisen’s multiphonic slurs could still be those of saxophonist John Coltrane working with guitarist Wes Montgomery. Furthermore ElSaffar’s capillary blowing ranges from heraldic to hushed, with contrapuntal explorations reflecting Miles Davis’ experiments with modes and frequently seconded by bass-string pops and drum kit coloring. Note the allusions when a track such as “Inana’s Dance (I, II, III)” is contrasted with the extended “Journey to the Underworld”. On the former as free-form percussion ratamacues mix it up with layered horn notes, the tremolo trumpet slurs have more to do with New Orleans than New Babylon, while Abboushi could be strumming a Dixieland tenor banjo. Meanwhile the bassist walks as the different sections evolve parallel to one another. “Journey to the Underworld”on the other hand begins and ends with keening vocalization from ElSaffar that evolves to melismatic yodeling, with dumbek crunches, kinetic strumming and Arabic-sounding reed accompaniment. However the middle section balances on off-centre thump bass, rolls and rim shots from Waits, contrapuntal trills from Mathisen and sharper retorts from the trumpeter.
These discs involve Westerners coming to terms with their dynastic roots, but Baro 101 Terp Records AIS-19) follows a different path. Named for the Addis Abeba hotel room in which it was recorded, Baro 101 captures a jam session among free jazz improvisers, Swedish baritone saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love who were performing in Ethiopia, and local Mesele Asmamaw, who plays the penatonic scale-tuned krar or six-stringed bowl-shaped lyre. Asmamaw creates licks that could be attributed to guitar, mandolin, banjo, steel guitar or string bass and the Europeans surmise different strategies to complement each twang. Gustaffsson’s bulky snorts, resonating tongue slaps and subterranean burbles usually dominate the tunes’ percussive base. This leaves Nilssen-Love free to use everything from cross sticking to bass-drum clobbering as polyrhythmic responses to Asmamaw’s multi-string forays. Nephritic cries from the reedist merely deepen the creative tension. Alternately, when he’s fully in the moment, Asmamaw vocalizes in high-pitched Amharic, accompanying himself with rapid frailing. It’s likely the Arabic lilt that appears in Gustaffsson’s riffs is purely illusionary. Yet his vamping counterpoint can be related to Scottish or Iberian bagpipe vibrations the same way that Asmamaw’s percussive finger-picking simulates a banjoist’s claw-hammer picking or a mandolinist’s rapid chromatic runs. Eventually, after many crescendos of saxophone tongue stops and altissimo slurs, steady backbeat or gliding stick pressure on the drums plus string patterns that use a wah-wah pedal as well as straight strumming, the three reach a satisfying climax of chromatic snaps, pops and plucks.
Alone, but not quite solo, Brampton’s David Sait produces a unique take on mixing ethnic sounds with improv on History Ship Apprise Records AP-05. Although he plays a 21-string Chinese guzheng or plucked, half-tube zither with movable bridges, Sait uses arbitrary tuning to produce alternative intonation that alters the expected timbres of an instrument whose antecedent was developed about 220 B.C. As the CD progresses, the results are simultaneously deconstructed and cacophonous. Plus he adds samples of echoing voice to further counter any tendency towards the harmonious. By the time “The Bells of Ischgl” arrives, Sait’s improvising resembles that of two tandem guitarists, one whose crunching run are bluesy and the other whose slurred fingering layer tone extensions on top of individual plucked notes. Processed samples, introduced here and on the concluding “Wood Stack Rockslide Avalanche”, make the sequences dissonant, inchoate and fascinating. Creating additional percussion sounds by hand hammering the strings, while elongating glissandi so they judder as much as they skim, Sait formulates oscillations that should come from electronics but are created acoustically. Similarly bent notes alongside distorted flat picking coupled with sampled drum smacks create a bottom for his experiments. Decisively he isolates the occasional harp-like arpeggio so that the buzzing interface plus abrasive wood patterning don’t completely obliterate string characteristics.
Using an ancient ethic instrument for 21st Century improvising Sait creates a soundfield well worth exploring, as do the other CDs here, which bend and blend traditional non-Western music with free-form improvisation.
-- For Whole Note Vol. 17 #8
May 11, 2012
Tony Malaby’s Tamarindo
Clean Feed CF 200CD
By Ken Waxman
Despite the overtly Christian religious iconography on the cover of Tamarindo Live, it would seem that the faith affirmed by this expanded version of saxophonist Tony Malaby’s band is that of free jazz. Moreover, the addition of veteran trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, certainly no fundamentalist, to the core trio filled out by second-generation drum stylist Nasheet Waits and free jazz’s most omnipresent bassist William Parker, elevates the program to an even higher spiritual and sonic plane.
Malaby, who served his apprenticeship in bands such as bassist’s Mark Helias’ trio, is confident in his solos at this Jazz Gallery session, and contributes four strong compositions. Unsurprisingly, the weightiest is the unadorned “Death Rattle”. Intense friction from Parker’s string rasgueado and Watts’ mercurial press rolls set the scene, elaborated by buzzing grace notes and slurs from the trumpeter and split tone and snorts from the saxophonist. Eventually as the drummer’s ruffs and ratamacues harden into march tempo, a sequence of reed sluices are evoked in double counterpoint to Smith’s capillary brays and bugle-call-like clarion runs. With all four players maintaining the tension, the final variant offers relief following Watts’ cymbal slaps and positioned nerve beats.
Happily the other tracks are more life affirming. “Jack the Hat with Coda” –celebrating Malaby’s son – is tender and temperate, the horns in counterpoint characterized by Smith’s trilling lopes and Malaby’s near-piccolo-tone soprano sax vibrations. As Smith and Malaby advance the line in lockstep, Parker’s stops and strums plus Watts’ bass drum smacks and paradiddles, downshift the theme to subdued concordance, given an added lilt in the dissolving postlude with barely there soprano chirps and trumpet obbligato.
Hopefully more than a one-shot experiment, a quartet Tamarindo is a first-class achievement all around.
Tracks: Buoyant Boy; Death Rattle; Hibiscus; Jack the Hat with Coda
Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet; Tony Malaby: tenor and soprano saxophones; William Parker: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums
-- For All About Jazz New York February 2011
February 12, 2011
WM Records WMD-0-358852-2
Although to their detriment far too many contemporary jazz CDs are tribute discs to some departed musical giant, a few bring enough originality to the project to be notable on their own. Requiem is one of those because its protagonists – pianist Andrzej Winnicki and tenor and soprano saxophonist Krzysztof Medyna – have spared us yet another run through of the Duke Ellington, Miles Davis or John Coltrane catalogue. Instead they celebrate a Polish countryman, known in North America for his film scores, but who was equally renowned in Poland for his jazz work.
Self-taught, pianist Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969), best-known for the soundtrack to Rosemary’s Baby, actually scored 40 films all together, including all of Roman Polanksi’s film until that time. His untimely death, following the transfer of his talents to Hollywood, somewhat obscured his earlier jazz quintet work, with trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and (then) saxophonist Michael Urbaniak, which helped evolve a Polish variant of improvisation. Winnicki and Medyna remember Komeda’s talents and in 2004 dissolved their Jazz-Rock Fusion band to concentrate on this acoustic Komeda tribute.
Requiem features two Winnicki originals alongside Komeda-composed material, most notably the three-part Daytime Night-time Requiem – which as a further echo of this CD tribute –ironically was composed by Komeda after he heard of saxophonist John Coltrane’s death in 1967. Unfolding in sections, the performance owes a lot from the tension-laden, contrapuntal match-up between Medyna and trumpeter Russ Johnson, who has worked with bassist Michael Blake and saxophonist Lee Konitz among others.
With the tutti explosions that mark the nearly 18-minute work eventually connective, it’s Johnson’s antiphonal melancholy or burbling triplets; Medyna’s diaphragm vibrated reed line that becomes double-tongued and harsh; plus Winnicki’s swirling piano clusters which best define the theme. Eventually the meandering and bumping adagio line downshifts to an appropriately heart-felt salute. Throughout this piece and others, the thumping bass lines of Scott Colley— who has backed guitarist Jim Hall and saxophonist Joe Lovano – and the rat tat tats and drum rolls from Nasheet Waits – more frequently in the Mingus Big Band or with pianists like Geri Allen – provide an unobtrusive foundation for the soloists.
“Litania”, another Komeda dirge, is given some liveliness by Waits’ popping snares and toms plus the trumpeter’s brightening flourishes. However the tempo-changing “Astigmatic” is more of a showcase for the pianist, who begins his unstressed solo staccato and allegro and works its way downwards to near stasis. Although the horns sometimes play presto – exposing the gritty tessitura of Medyna’s soprano saxophone – more often-than-not the bassist’s striding, sliding and plucking joins with Winnicki comping to define the narrative.
As for Winnicki’s originals, they nestle comfortably among the other compositions. “Anubis” – also evidentially inspired by Trane – is a graceful narrative driven by airy and unaffected soprano sax trills, arpeggiated, meandering piano comping and Johnson’s chromatic flutters that just skirt prettiness. On the other hand, “Elutka”, featuring skittering piano glissandi and a polyphonic face-off among the instruments, seems more mellow and self-conscious in its horn voicing. Overall though, different measures are sutured together for a linear finale.
An out-of-the-ordinary salute to a musician, Requiem is also suffused with out-of-the-ordinary playing and composing that deserves to be heard.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Daytime Night-time Requiem Pt. 1 2. Daytime Night-time Requiem Pt. 2 3. Daytime Night-time Requiem Pt. 3 4. Ballad for Bernt5. Dirge for Europe 6. Astigmatic 7. Elutka 8. Prayer and Question 9. Litania 10. Anubis
Personnel: Russ Johnson (trumpet and flugelhorn); Krzysztof Medyna (tenor and soprano saxophones); Andrzej Winnicki (piano); Scott Colley (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums)
May 17, 2010
Bruce Eisenbeil Sextet
Inner Constellation Volume One
By Ken Waxman
Taking up most of the CD with his almost 47½-minute Inner Constellation suite, Manhattan-based guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil structures his composition to take advantage of the cohesive layered textures available from each section of his mini-orchestra. With the strings Jean Cook’s violin, Tom Abbs’s bass, and his own guitars; the horns trumpeter Nate Wooley and saxophonist Aaron Ali Shaikh; plus Nasheet Waits drums, the through-composed work is properly represented, while individual improvisations are showcased as well.
Most impressive among the contrapuntal theme comments are Cook’s angled, spiccato glissandi, with the flying staccato often straddling a walking bass line – when not creating pedal-point refraction by itself or exposing tremolo palpitations, echoed by unison horns. Wooley’s chortling runs are expressed open horn, while his quivering shakes and distinct multiphonics seem forced from his horn’s deepest reaches. Elsewhere, the brassman contributes heraldic tutti flourishes when needed, or in contrast, makes space for Abbs to discontinue his tandem time-keeping with Waits’ bouncing ruffs or wood-block resonation, for the bassist to showcase double-stopped, beneath-the-bridge scrapes and near wood-cracking slides.
Inner Constellation is resolved when the atmospheric polyphony of stop-time cries from the saxophone and whinnying asides from the trumpet uncover a sprightlier and speedier rhythmic variation from the guitarist’s supple finger styling. As the composition dissolves with a defining rasgueado from the composer, the promise of a Volume Two appears very inviting.
In MusicWorks Issue #100
April 3, 2008
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 pianists compositions, which have a tendency to be overly fragile and prosaically mainstream in other situations.
Hersch, who has played with everyone from Stan Getz to Gary Burton, taught jazz at several schools and received honors from organizations such as the French Academie du Jazz and the National Endowment for the Arts, doesnt change his style in any way here. Yet he doesnt prevent brassman Ralph Alessi, who has done lots of work with pianist Uri Caine and saxist Tony Malaby, who works in bassist Mark Helias trio, from adding the sort of smears and bent notes they would play in other circumstances. Backing all this is his longtime rhythm section of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Nasheet Waits.
The pieces that are most impressive are those which arent Trio + 2, but definite quintet conceptions, with the zenith probably reached with Miss B. and Lees Dream. The latter -- dedicated to Konitz, incidentally -- is based on the chord changes of You Stepped Out of a Dream, with Malabys tenor taking on light, breathy almost alto-like tones. The resulting timbres sound midway between Konitzs alto and Marshs tenor with a spiky, POMO fillip. For his part, Hersch strums and pumps piano lines that finally resolve themselves into bouncy, accented chording.
Wriggling with energy, the former tune contrasts chromatic tones from Alessi and buzzing slurs from Malaby with right-handed piano chording that turn into a dance of descending arpeggios and double-timed metronomic timekeeping. The tenorist then adds some smears and double tonguing, the trumpeter held notes and high register squeals, and the piece ends with a hearty thwack from Waits drumstick.
If Hersch has become more open over the years, his friend and dedicatee of Down Home, guitarist Bill Frisell, appears to have gone in the opposite director. In truth the stride piano and honky-tonk echoes the pianist adds to his solo here sound a lot more down home then the countrypolitan licks Frisell displays on his more recent CDs. With Waits cross stocking out a shuffle beat, Malaby honking and Alessi sounding high-pitched triplets, this turns the piece into a light finger snapper. Incredibly enough as well, Hersch appears to be sounding out completely different lines with either hand. Eventually he impels the tune back to a stroll and ends it with in tinkling crescendo.
Other tracks lack these high standards, though not one is any less than professional and technically immaculate. Along the way, Malaby proves that he can be play as coolly as any 1950s West Cost saxist; Gress walks with aplomb; Waits amazes with his percussion restraint; and on the gentle but gloomy A Lark -- dedicated to Kenny Wheeler -- Alessi proves that low-key flugelhorn can perfectly replicate the sound of that British resident, Canadian brassman.
Herschs collection of awards and reputation as a straightahead master player shouldnt drive away more adventurous listeners. This CD proves that in the right circumstances and with the right input, he can loosen up and cook.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. A Riddle Song 2. And I Love Her 3. Miss B. 4. Black Dog Pays A Visit 5. A Lark 6. Down Home 7. Rain Waltz 8. Marshalls Plan 9. Lees Dream 10. The Chase
Personnel: Ralph Alessi (trumpet and flugelhorn); Tony Malaby (tenor saxophone); Fred Hersch (piano); Drew Gress (bass); Nasheet Waits (drums)
June 7, 2004