text Waxing Poetic Reviews

 

Roscoe Mitchell
Dots-Pieces For Percussion And Woodwinds
(Wide Hive Records)

Multi-instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell, co-founder of the influential Art Ensemble of Chicago and titan of the creative/improvisational jazz world has worked with an amalgamation of ground-breaking collaborators, and lead his own intrepid ensembles since the mid ‘60s. He remains fresh, adventurous and prolific—recording regularly, but never repetitiously.

Dots-Pieces For Percussion And Woodwinds features the icon in a solo setting at a home studio in Fitchburg, Wisconsin from February to April 2021. Significantly, the recording is far from being Mitchell’s first solo endeavor, yet may be the first that’s meditative. For holistic purists that term may be a stretch. Percussion by way of bells, chimes and gongs are spiritually oriented, while pieces with reeds are jaunting.

Most importantly the tracks are considerably short by the highly imaginative artist’s standards—with the longest being a little over four minutes long. The 19 selections somewhat flow along, with occasional jolts and are minimalistic in concept.

Unquestionably, Dots differs strongly from Mitchell’s other works and it’s unclear who it will appeal to. Nonetheless, the album is a must-have for his most ardent fans. Wendy L. Nelson served as the engineer and also took pictures of Mitchell’s art for the recording’s cover and inner sleeves. 

 

 

Lorraine Feather
My Own Particular Life
(Relarion)

Lorraine Feather has a very distinctive singing and songwriting style. As a vocalist she is sensitive, intellectual and adventurous. While as a lyricist she simply goes where others fear to thread—taking on subjects that are highly personal, abstract and dark, with humor and irony. The accolades for her career that encompasses song, stage, screen and TV are three Grammy, eight Emmy and Critics’ Choice nominations, along with other awards.

For her “lucky 13” COVID-19 inspired solo project My Own Particular Life, Feather enlisted many great talents. They are keyboardist/arranger/composers Shelly Berg, Russell Ferrante and Dave Grusin; bassists Michael Valerio and Chuck Bergeron; drummer/percussionists Michael Shapiro and Dafnis Prieto; guitarists Eddie Arkin (also producer and composer) and Grant Geissman, along with violinist Charlie Bisharat and cellist Jacob Braun.

The singer/songwriter and her conglomerate of sidemen shine on the java-jiving title track that includes self-analysis. “Everything Else is Waiting” and “Are You Up?” are softly sung, and garnered by Bisharat’s sweet violin playing.  In realm of classical-romanticism are Feather’s beautifully crafted lyrics for “A Hopeful Note” and “A Grand Invention.” Not to be overlooked is the singer/songwriter’s trademark quirkiness, which are exemplified innocent on “Sweet Little Creature” and hip “Jacket Weather.” 

 

 

 

Josh Nelson
Live At Blue Whale, Volume 1
(Steel Bird Music)

Pianist-composer Josh Nelson performed regularly at the late and much-missed Blue Whale. The five performances on this CD (all Nelson originals) were recorded in Oct. 2018 and Dec. 2019 by the keyboardist’s Discovery Project. While the full personnel is listed, not all of the musicians appear on every number. The ten musicians who appear on at least one of these concerts are Nelson on piano and electric keyboards, Jeff Parker and Larry Koonse on guitars, electric violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, tenor-saxophonist Daniel Rotem, trumpeter-flugelhornist Chris Lawrence, cellist Artyam Manukyan, clarinetist Brian Walsh, bassist Alex Boneham, and drummer Dan Schnelle.

“Double Helix,” which opens the set, is the lengthiest performance. It features a catchy rhythmic vamp that builds and builds, leading to piano, tenor, violin, and trumpet solos with Atwood-Ferguson being particularly adventurous and trumpeter Lawrence having some explosive moments in his improvisation. It serves as a rousing beginning.

The other four selections are more atmospheric. “Our Electromagnetic Hearts” is a quiet ballad feature for bass and piano. Walsh’s clarinet is prominent on the moody “Peter Sellers.” “Oumuamua” is especially memorable, utilizing an electronic pattern that is a little reminiscent of Weather Report along with some spooky bass clarinet. It could work as a soundtrack or the background for one’s dreams. The program concludes with the charming waltz “Bluewhale Dives Deep” which has Walsh playing quite melodically.

This CD, which fortunately is the first volume of Josh Nelson’s music from the Blue Whale, rewards repeated listenings. It is available from www.joshnelsonmusic.com.

     

 

Jay Clayton
In And Out Of Love
(Sunnyside)

Having seen and thoroughly enjoyed singer Jay Clayton’s recent performance at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s, I thought it was a good excuse to acquire and enjoy one of her earlier gems. In And Out Of Love was recorded in 2010 and finds the adventurous vocalist giving a fresh spin to some of her favorite standards. Joined by guitarist Jack Wilkins and bassist Jay Anderson (both of whom have many fine solos along the way), she really excels in this quiet yet very self-sufficient setting.

Jay Clayton has often appeared on freer and more spontaneous projects but she has always loved standards. Her voice is very attractive on this CD, her phrasing swings, and her improvising is filled with many subtle surprises that keep the music from ever being predictable. While “How Deep Is The Ocean” swings happily and the ballad “My One And Only Love” is given a superior interpretation,, her wordless singing in unison with Wilkins on the melody of “Freedom Jazz Dance,” her inventive interplay with her sidemen, and her somewhat wild scatting on “Israel” and particularly “Sunshower” lets one know that she is not a typically conventional singer.

Jay Clayton’s fearlessness and beautiful voice (along with her wit) have often surprised and impressed instrumentalists. Coupled with the fact that she always does

justice to the words that she sings and one has one of the great jazz singers. In And Out Of Love (available from www.sunnysiderecords.com) is highly recommended.

     

 

Various Artists
Relief: A Benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America’s Musicians’ Emergency Fund
(Mack Avenue)

The New York-based Jazz Foundation Of America raises and gives money to jazz musicians in need. This special CD, which has performances from nine all-star groups, is a rare example of many competing jazz labels working together for an admirable cause. Blue Note, Concord, Mack Avenue, Nonesuch, Verve, and Warner Music all allowed their artists to contribute to this CD whose proceeds will go to the JFA’s Musicians’ Emergency Fund. While some of the titles are familiar, all of these performances were previously unreleased. They are mostly either alternate takes from earlier sessions or taken from live concerts.

The program covers an impressive variety of music. Singer-bassist Esperanza Spalding and keyboardist Leo Genovese (along with drummer Juan Chiavassa) perform “Irma and Leo,” an electric piece that one could imagine Wayne Shorter having composed; it includes some free moments and overdubbed vocals. Christian McBride’s “Brother Malcolm” features tenor-saxophonist Marcus Strickland in a quartet with trumpeter Josh Evans that at various times recalls John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord,” the early Ornette Coleman Quartet, and the writing of Charles Mingus. Cécile McLorin Salvant with pianist Sullivan Fortner performs “Easy Come, Easy Go Blues,” sounding very much like a classic blues singer of the 1920s.

Altoist Kenny Garrett’s “Joe Hen’s Waltz” is an offbeat jazz waltz with passionate and lyrical playing from the altoist and a fine spot for pianist Benito Gonzalez. Jon Batiste takes on the surprising role of a solo singer-pianist on “Sweet Lorraine”; his singing is passable while his piano playing is on a higher level. Pianist Hiromi is also heard solo, putting a lot of feeling into the ballad “Green Tea Farm,” a thoughtful piece about being in solitude. Tenor-saxophonist Joshua Redman and his Still Dreaming Quartet (a band that pays tribute to the spirit of Old and New Dreams) perform the all-ensemble piece “Facts,” a complex original that is really just a blues. Veteran tenor Charles Lloyd is featured on a live version of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” that is abstract and quite adventurous; guitarist Marvin Sewell has a fine spot.

The program concludes with both joy and sadness. From the 2014 annual Great Day In Harlem celebration held at the Apollo Theater by the JFA is a version of “Gingerbread Boy.” While pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Buster Williams, and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath are still very much with us, tenor-saxophonist Jimmy Heath and trumpeter Wallace Roney are gone, both lost in 2020. This unique and swinging performance is the only recording that exists of Heath and Roney playing together, giving listeners an opportunity to hear these two greats one more time. Support the JFA. Relief is available from www.jazzfoundation.org.

     

 

Hasaan Ibn Ali
Retrospect In Retirement Of Delay: The Solo Recordings
(Omnivore)

Pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali (1931-80) was a mystery figure during his life. A local legend who was based in Philadelphia, Ali influenced, inspired and informally taught many of the greats who spent time in the city including McCoy Tyner, John Coltrane and Odean Pope. But only one album of his playing was released while he was alive, 1964’s The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan, which teamed him with drummer Roach and bassist Art Davis. He recorded a second album but, due to a drug bust, it went unreleased. Finally in 2021, that quartet set with tenor-saxophonist Odean Pope, Art Davis and drummer Kalil Madi (Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album) came out on the Omnivore label.

More recently, Omnivore has compiled a double-CD of private performances that feature Hasaan Ibn Ali during 1962 and 1964-65 as a solo pianist. These informal but well recorded tapes really give one a chance to hear how innovative Ali was as a pianist while also revealing his roots.

The pianist performs such standards as “Cherokee,” “Body And Soul,” “On Green Dolphin Street,” “After You’ve Gone,” and “It Could Happen To You” along with a few originals. At various times, Ali sounds close to Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Elmo Hope and, to a lesser extent, Thelonious Monk while also hinting at his roots in swing. But in general he displays a strikingly original and adventurous style. While Ali often plays chords conventionally with his left hand (although with his own voicings) and sticks to the structures of songs, his right hand creates abstract, often-rapid, and fairly free lines that display his virtuosity and creativity. His interpretations are generally thoughtful even during the uptempo pieces yet quite unpredictable as he pushes the pieces (even Monk’s “Off Minor”) into his own musical world. It is obvious that he had developed his own highly individual style and that he had enormous potential.

The performances are consistently fascinating. In addition to his piano playing, Ali takes brief vocals on a couple of the pieces, verbally introduces some of them, and even recites a poem. The twofer has thorough and very informative liner notes that include essays by Matthew Shipp, Lewis Porter, and a lengthy and definitive piece by Alan Sukoenig. Coupled with the recordings, the release gives one as full an understanding of Hasaan Ibn Ali’s life and music as is possible.

This important twofer is highly recommended and available from www.omnivorerecordings.com.

     

 

Dal Sasso Big Band
John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass Revisited
(Jazz & People)

For his very first recording for the Impulse label, John Coltrane led a larger group than usual for what became known as the Africa/Brass sessions. The May 23, 1961 date which resulted in “Greensleeves” utilized two trumpets, two euphoniums, five French horns, tuba and three reeds in addition to Coltrane’s quintet which for the project had two bassists. On June 7, 1961 Coltrane recorded “Africa” and “Blues Minor” with a group

comprised of one trumpet, one trombone, one euphonium, four French horns, tuba and two reeds plus the quintet. It was the closest that Coltrane came to leading a conventional big band. Later on, some alternate takes plus “Song Of The Underground Railroad” and “The Damned Don’t Cry” were also released from the sessions. While the horns included such notables as Eric Dolphy and trumpeter Booker Little, the only soloists were the core quintet.

Nearly 60 years later, during Sept. 11-12, 2020, the music and setting were revisited by top French musicians, with some differences. Christopher Dal Sasso contributed all but one of the arrangements for the Dal Sasso Big Band which was comprised of two trumpets, two trombones, five saxophonists, piano, bass, drums, and percussion with Del Sasso on flute. The results are available on this two-CD set.

The biggest difference is that three different saxophonists have solo features on the eight selections rather than just one. Tenor-saxophonist David El-Malek, who sounds close to Coltrane, is showcased on four numbers while altoist Geraldine Laurent and tenor-saxophonist Sophie Alour are in the spotlight on two songs apiece. There are also solos for the rhythm section: pianist Pierre de Bethmann, bassist Manuel Marches, and drummer Karl Jannuska.

Four of the five songs originally recorded by Coltrane’s group (all but “The Damned Don’t Cry”) are on the program along with versions of “Tunji,” “Liberia,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” and “Naima.” While this arrangement of “Africa” does not really compare to the original one (which had several of the horns making colorful sounds that conjured up a jungle), the writing is excellent throughout. The soloists manage to do the near-impossible in that they bring back the passion and intensity of Coltrane without too closely copying him.

Fans of the original Africa/Brass Sessions and of John Coltrane in general will enjoy this colorful set which is available from www.amazon.com.

     

 

Bill Charlap Trio
Street Of Dreams
(Blue Note)

Pianist Bill Charlap has led a trio with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington since at least 1997. The unrelated Washingtons always give the pianist what he wants, whether it is quietly tasteful accompaniment or hard-driving swing.

Their latest project, Street Of Dreams, is a typically rewarding set from the Bill Charlap Trio. The musicians dig into medium-tempo versions of Dave Brubeck’s “The Duke” and “Out Of Nowhere” yet really excel on the slow ballads which include “Day Dream,” a mostly out-of-tempo exploration of “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life,” and a surprisingly slow rendition of “Street Of Dreams”; the latter is fittingly given a somewhat dreamy interpretation.

Charlap has long had his own sound within jazz’s mainstream and he is able to get deep beneath the surface of standards to explore their often-hidden beauty, serving the song rather than trying to dazzle listeners. His creativity is subtle yet he consistently comes up with fresh versions of even the most familiar songs.

Street Of Dreams is just the latest in a long string of rewarding recordings by the team of Charlap, Washington, and Washington. It is available from www.amazon.com.

     

 

Lionel Loueke
Close Your Eyes
(Sounderscore)

Lionel Loueke is probably the most significant jazz musician to originate from the West African country of Benin. He started out as an African pop musician but turned towards jazz after hearing a George Benson album. Loueke was discovered when he auditioned to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute in 2001. He has since been championed by Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, and Wayne Shorter, working with many of the who’s who of modern jazz since 2003. He has become well known as an inventive guitarist-singer who primarily plays originals influenced by his West African heritage.

Close Your Eyes, which was originally a premium-priced Lp released by the Newville label in 2018, has now been reissued as a CD by Sounderscore with the original program of eight songs being expanded to 11. What is most unusual about this set is that, for the first time, Loueke is featured on a full set of standards. Joined by bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland (both of whom constantly react to the guitarist’s ideas and inspire him), Loueke (who is heard throughout the instrumental album on electric guitar) creates fresh versions of such songs as “It Might As Well Be Spring” (taken faster than usual), “Moon River,” “Body And Soul,” Thelonious Monk’s “We See,” and “Naima.”

Rather than rely on the standard recordings of others as the basis for his versions, Lionel Loueke tackles each song as if it were newly composed, paying tribute to the melodies but improvising in his own style. There are times when his distortions and general tone recall John Scofield, early Bill Frisell and Jim Hall, allowing one to hear some of his roots; surprisingly he never sounds like George Benson.

While Close Your Eyes is a different type of Lionel Loueke recording, it serves as an excellent introduction to his playing and will be particularly prized by those who enjoy his other projects. It is available from www.sounderscore.com.

     

 

Matthew Shipp
Codebreaker
(Tao Forms)

Matthew Shipp’s latest solo piano album is a bit more laidback and introspective than usual, but no less inventive. The 11 selections, which I assume are free improvisations, use space creatively, contain abstract melodies, develop logically but never predictably, and are concise; only one piece is over five minutes and not by much.

The net results sound like Shipp is thinking aloud at the piano, or possibly dreaming. While one can draw some parallels to Keith Jarrett’s freer concerts, Shipp creates music without relying on a repetitious groove, letting one idea lead to the next

without forcing the improvisations to go in any particular direction.

Matthew Shipp has recorded prolifically throughout his busy career but the music on Codebreaker sounds different than his other sessions. It is much more thoughtful than most while not being any less original. Codebreaker is one of his most accessible albums, shows both maturity and his consistent desire to stretch himself, and is well worth several close listens. This worthy set is available from www.aumfidelity.com.

     

 

Charged Particles
The Music Of Michael Brecker
(Summit)

Michael Brecker is remembered most as one of the all-time great jazz tenor-saxophonists, a brilliant player who took the inspiration of John Coltrane to new heights through his remarkable virtuosity, versatility, and creative ideas. One does not necessarily think of Brecker as being one of the major jazz composers, but the group Charged Particles shows that a reassessment may be in order.

The recent Charged Particles release, which was recorded live at the Baked Potato on March 17, 2019, features the trio (keyboardist Murray Low, bassist Aaron Germain, and drummer Jon Krosnick) plus tenor-saxophonist Tod Dickow and Omar Ledezma on congas. They perform eight Brecker compositions and Don Grolnick’s “Talking To Myself.”

Dickow is naturally in the spotlight much of the time. He is influenced just enough by Brecker to fit perfectly into this tribute yet he also brings his own complementary musical personality to the challenging repertoire. The trio that comprises Charged Particles has performed together in the San Francisco Bay area for nearly 30 years and they often think as one while pushing each other. Low’s solos on various keyboards uplift the music as does the occasional appearances of guest conga player Ledezma.

None of the songs are easy to play. They include hard-charging versions of “Peep” and “African Skies,” the complex jazz waltz “Arc Of The Pendelum,” the melancholy ballad “Never Alone,” and the tongue-twister melody of “Not Ethiopia.” Low, who switches between piano, electric keyboards and organ, takes one of his best piano solos on “The Mean Time” which precedes the funky closer, “Song For Barry,” which was originally dedicated to trombonist Barry Rogers.

The lengthy liner notes by Brecker biographer Bill Milkowski are an added plus. Listening to this exciting music, one can understand why Randy Brecker gave Live At The Baked Potato his enthusiastic approval. It is available from www.summitrecords.com.

     

 

Barry Altschul
Long Tall Sunshine
(Not Two)

Drummer Barry Altschul, who is now 78, has had a long and productive career.

An important improviser since the late 1960s, he has worked along the way with Paul Bley, the group Circle (with Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Anthony Braxton), Braxton’s quartet, Sam Rivers, Lee Konitz, Art Pepper, Dave Liebman, Andrew Hill, and many other adventurous musicians. Long Tall Sunshine is at least his 14th album as a leader.

Featured in a trio with Jon Irabagon (on tenor, the soprillo sax, and alto clarinet) and bassist Joe Fonda, Altschul shows that he has not lost either his power or his creativity through the years. He contributed all five compositions and these include a couple of heated blowouts (“The 3DOM Factor” and “Martin’s Stew”), a mournful ballad (“Irina”), the wailing opener “Long Tall Sunshine” and the group improv “Be Out S’Cool.” Irabagon’s tenor playing (getting all types of sounds on his horn throughout “The 3DOM Factor”) is quite colorful and passionate while his work on soprillo (which is pitched higher than a soprano-sax) on “Be Out S’Cool” is noteworthy. Fonda playing is also not to be overlooked for he holds the trio together and contributes swing (when it is needed), constant commentary that inspires the lead voices, and occasional solos.

Open-eared listeners will find Long Tall Sunshine to be an invigorating listening experience. It is available from www.nottwo.com.

     

 

Harold Mabern
Mabern Plays Coltrane
(Smoke Sessions)

Harold Mabern (1936-2019) was an important jazz pianist ever since he moved to New York in late 1959. His playing grew in depth and power through the years and he did much of his finest work during his last decade. His yearly appearances at Catalina Bar & Grill were always outstanding and he was also considered an influential and inspiring educator.

Mabern Plays Coltrane was recorded at New York’s Smoke’s during Jan. 5-7, 2018. The pianist’s longtime quartet with tenor-saxophonist Eric Alexander, bassist John Webber, and drummer Joe Farnsworth, is joined by altoist Vincent Herring and trombonist Steve Davis for six songs composed by John Coltrane plus his trademark number “My Favorite Things.”

Since Mabern had similar influences as his contemporary McCoy Tyner and Alexander can sound close to Coltrane at times, this is a tribute project that makes perfect sense. The music (other than “Dear Lord”) is from Coltrane’s 1957-60 period with the harmonies played by the sextet certainly fitting into that era. Each of the horn players has plenty of solo space to stretch out, the rhythm section is alert and stimulating, and Mabern is heard throughout in prime form. Highlights include two rarely-performed classics (“Dahomey Dance” and “Straight Street”), a welcome revival of “Blue Train,” and a fiery version of “Impressions.”

Mabern Plays Coltrane, which is easily recommended and available from www.smokesessionsrecords.com, reminds one of the greatness of the much-missed Harold Mabern.

     

 

Jared Schonig
Two Takes: Vol. 1: Quintet
(Anzic)

Jared Schonig
Two Takes: Vol. 2: Big Band
(Anzic)

Drummer-composer Jared Schonig has had a busy career, co-leading the Wee Trio, touring with Kurt Elling, the New York Voices and Duchess, and working with such notables as Nicholas Payton, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Donny McCaslin, Wycliffe Gordon, Fred Hersch and Tom Harrell among others. Schonig’s two recent releases on the Anzic label (www.anzicrecords.com) contain his same eight originals played by two very different groups. Vol. 1 utilizes a combo that also includes trumpeter Marquis Hill, altoist Godwin Louis, pianist-keyboardist Luis Perdomo, and bassist Matt Clohesy. The set begins with a brief drum solo; there are three other drum interludes included between some of the songs. “White Out” has a complex theme that becomes a hot minor blues with strong trumpet and alto solos. “Climb” is a thoughtful number that picks up steam as it progresses. “Nuts” is a particularly exciting feature for the quintet, the cooking “Eight Twenty” is one of Schonig’s strongest compositions, and the melancholy ballad “Tig Mack” has a prominent role for Clohesy’s bass lines. Of the other originals, “Sound Evidence” includes a catchy melody. “Sabotage” swings for the trumpet and piano solos before having a soulful groove for altoist Louis, and “Gibbs St.” includes some relaxed bass playing, assertive unisons from horns, a sly groove of its own, and a surprisingly quiet ending. The strong solos, attractive ensembles, and Schonig’s powerful yet never dominant drums make Vol. 1: Quintet a set that hard bop fans will enjoy.

It is particularly intriguing listening to Vol. 2: Big Band after the first set. The order of the songs is a bit different but it is easy to compare the two versions. The sound of the 13-horn 17-member orchestra is occasionally reminiscent of the Buddy Rich Big Band (particularly on “Sabotage”) and there is one arrangement apiece of the leader’s originals by Alan Ferber, Jim McNeely, Mike Holober, Miho Hazama, Darcy James Argue, John Daversa, Laurence Hobgood, and Brian Krock. 14 different soloists are heard from including Donny McCaslin, Scott Wendholdt, and Charles Pillow. Despite the many different arrangers and soloists, this set has a strong unity and the orchestra displays its own musical identity. Just to name a few highlights, “Sabotage” switches a bit between straight ahead jazz and a funky groove, “White Out” swings hard, the complex “Climb” has inventive solos from tenor-saxophonist Jason Rigby and altoist Charles Pillow, “Sound Evidence (which climaxes with Nir Felder’s statement on guitar) is quite dramatic, and Dave Pietro’s takes a blazing alto solo on “Nuts.” But all eight numbers are well worth hearing and Jared Schonig’s many short breaks and the consistent momentum that he generates keep the results from ever becoming sleepy or predictable.

While I give a slight edge to Vol. 1 due to the high quality of the solos and a greater feeling of spontaneity, both of these CDs are quite rewarding.

     

 

Ilya Serov
Just Friends
(Silkysound)

Ilya Serov’s Just Friends features an unusual mixture of styles. Designed as a tribute to Chet Baker, this CD features Servo taking some vocals that sound exactly like Baker, particularly on the opening “Just Friends.” He is also a fine trumpeter who plays in a similar relaxed West Coast cool jazz style.

At the same time, the accompaniment to Serov ranges from poppish and r&bish to even disco on “Heat.” The idea was to imagine what it would sound like if Baker were heard in a “contemporary jazz” setting today. Seven of the songs are from Baker’s repertoire (including “Let’s Get Lost,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Everything Happens To Me”) while the other four numbers are much more recent; one song is by guitarist Kay Ta-Matsuno while the other three are ones that he co-wrote with Serov.

Serov is the lead voice, both instrumentally (sometimes switching to his odd-looking jazzohorn which sounds like a muted trumpet) and on vocals, and he performs well. But this project often sounds like two only slightly related albums being played at the same time. The “accompaniment” is a bit too prominent in spots, the rhythms come across as trivial and mechanical, and the result is that it waters down the music.

Chet Baker thrived in sparse settings, making some of his best later recordings while joined by just guitar and bass. Perhaps Ilya Serov should consider dropping the pop trappings and stretching out next time.

Just Friends is available from www.ilyaserov.com.

 

Justin Chart
Intuition
(Self-Released)

Justin Chart is an alto-saxophonist who goes his own way. He has an original tone and a quietly emotional style that can be quite atmospheric. His sound would fit in comfortably in the soundtrack of a film noir, evoking dark rainy nights in Los Angeles that are full of intrigue and mystery.

A veteran of the music scene in Southern California, Justin Chart has composed for a variety of feature films and television shows but is best known as a saxophonist who has played in many different jazz and rock groups during the past few decades. Along the way he has developed his own way to create free jazz, resulting in freely improvised music that, in addition to its cinematic qualities, are painted soundscapes that sound composed even though they are made up on the spot.

On Intuition, Chart spontaneously created a dozen originals in the studio with his quartet which is comprised of either Chris Potter (no relation to the saxophonist) or an unidentified player simply called Stupendous on piano, Bill Markus or Andrew Hill on bass, and Ian Wurfl or Vince Fosset, Jr. on drums. Every performance on the release is the first and only take of that particular work, and no editing or overdubbing took place after the performance. Unlike some of the high-energy free jazz events of the past, Justin Chart’s music includes melodic themes, chord changes, and very coherent ensembles. The musicians react quickly to each other, swing or set grooves, and blend together, creating music that somehow sounds pre-planned.

Intuition begins with Justin Chart’s alto introducing the haunting ballad “At 3 A.M,” setting a mood that is carried on during the piano solo. “The Sideral Sound,” which sounds a little like “Work Song,” has the leader improvising over the walking bass. Singer/rapper Know-Madik has a talking vocal on “Didn’t Then I Did” that fits in with the adventurous and hyper piece. A fast bass pattern sets up “Just Like That” which features Chart flying over his sidemen, the pianist playing fairly free with the hard-swinging rhythm section, and is topped off by a melodic drum solo.

The other improvisations set a variety of moods, from the mournful ballad “Our Hands,” a pair of minor blues (“Always In All Ways” and “Cherry Tonalin”) and the laidback “These Changes Devine” to the funky “Somethin To Say” and the soulful if bleak “Blue Will Get You.” “Diamond Of The Night” is a highlight, starting with the feel of a ragged waltz and including a lyrical statement from the altoist along with a catchy bass pattern and a swinging piano solo. “Pleased After A Day’s Work” seems like the perfect title for the closer for the musicians Chart must have been quite happy with the results of their spontaneous explorations.

Intuition (available from www.justinchart.com), which is arguably Justin Chart’s finest recording so far, is filled with intriguing and inventive music that is well worth several close listens.