Hush Money - Erik Deutsch (Hammer & String Records) - I've seen Erik Deutsch's name on several CDs and have heard him with Charlie Hunter's Trio but, honestly, that did not prepare me for how impressive this recording, his 2nd as a leader, is. If I had heard his 2007 debut, Fingerprint" (Sterling Circle), his love of melody and instrumental interplay would be no surprise.
The rhythm section consists of old friends Jonti Siman (bass), Marc Dalio (drums), and guitarist Jon Goldberger. To that fine mix, he adds the saxophone and clarinet work of Mike McGiniss (The Four Bags, OK|OK) and the bassoon of Sara Schoenbeck (Wayne Horvitz's Gravitas Ensemble). Deutsch contributes many keyboard sounds to the songs, from traditional acoustic piano to organ to Casio to Moog synthesizer. As for the music, the title track opens the program with a handsome and wistful melody played by piano, bassoon and clarinet, sometimes together, other times winding around each other.
That interaction is a key to the beauty on Incandescence, a track with a mature melody shared by bassoon, piano, guitar and clarinet, and solos that move swiftly but wthout haste to the different lead instruments. Fluttering synth noises announce the arrival of Flytrap, a song that blends classical references with odd sounds. Dirty Osso Bucco has a New Orleans/Allen Toussaint feel in its rhythm and melody lines.
The addition of trumpeter Eric Biondo and baritone sax shouter Barry Saunders fills out the sound while Deutsch lets loose with a funky solo. There's great bounce in the rhythms of India Rubber and a healthy dose of 1970's r'n'b on Quittin' Time." Slider closes the program on a mysterious note, with different sounds moving in and out of the mix atop the flowing rhythm lines. From the first note to the last, Hush Money delivers the goods.
There's so much music here, so many styles, yet nothing sounds forced, facile or phony. I'm not a fan of cluttered" music, pieces with so many layers that it is hard to focus on the songs. There are many layers in Erik Deutsch's music yet it all feels right" and never out of place. Give a listen and enjoy the surprises.
For more information, go to hammerandstring.com.
ACT - Ben Wendel/Harish Raghavan/Nate Wood - (BJU Records) - Here's another fine trio recording for your delectation.
Saxophonist Wendel (best known for his work with Kneebody as well as his impressive debut on Sunnyside earlier this year), bassist Raghavan (most recently with pianist Taylor Eigsti) and drummer Woods (gigs with Chaka Khan, pianist Billy Childs and others) got together for a couple of days in Woods' father's studio and just played. One can hear the influence of the classic Sonny Rollins' trio recordings (they play the master's Pentup House) but this is no retro" CD. What you hear is free of artifice - it sounds like the trio is having fun, enjoy being with each other, digging into the songs, no need to set the world on fire, just let the music go where it may.
That liberating" feeling permeates the music,from the free-flowing Break to the lovely reading of Elvis Costello's Shamed Into Love" (first recorded by classical vocalist Anne Sofie von Otter.)
Raghavan's Title" reminds this listener of Trio Air, especially in the independence and interaction of the rhythm section and the way Wendel wraps his saxophone lines around the bass and drums. Wendel overdubs bassoon and piano for What Was, the final track, giving the tune more structure but no less power than other cuts.
ACT is creative music that demands you pay attention but pays the attentive listener back by being honest. Can't ask for more than that. For more information, go to bjurecords.com.
Those Moments Before - Edward Ratliff - (StrudelMedia) - A friend called and asked how I would categorize the music on this CD - there are so many diverse elements at play here (tango rhythms, funk, jazz, wistful accordions, muted trumpets, etc) that it's easy to see this as soundtrack" music. Not to one film in particular but to the diverse sounds in Edward Ratliff's fertile imagination. It's no surprise that he has written scores for movies and dance companies and admits right at the top of the liner notes that I love going to the movies." The crew he has assembled for this effort includes the highly responsive rhythm section of bassist Sean Conly and the late drummer Take Toriyama. Mix in the active reed work of Michael Attias, Beth Schenk and Doug Weiselman, the sparkling and chunky" guitar work of Nate Radley and the keyboard sounds of Wes Matthews. On top of that, the leader performs on acccordion, cornet, trumpet, trombone and celeste. Every song is its own world, from the cheery Latin flavors of Cafe Cortado to the hard-hitting funk of Movin' On Over (sounds a bit like David Bowie's Fame") to the Klezmer-like frolic on Veloce to the short yet weighty solo piano piece titled Good Question (inspired by Henry Threadgill.)
This is the sort of CD that gets lost in the myriad releases. There's a lot of going on here and much of it, on initial listening, is fun. Once the sounds sink in, one hears how fine the soloists are, how well the sections are constructed and just how wide Ratliff's scope is. Whether it's a tribute to Hong Kong Action films or the sound of Johnny Hodges, Those Moments Before is a very satisfying and entertaining show.
For more information, go to edwardratliff.com.
I Think I'll Keep You - Amanda Monaco - (Late Set Records) - Ms. Monaco, a native of Wallingford, CT, has slowly but steadily building a career as songwriter, bandleader and player. This, her 3rd recording as a leader, is certainly her most mature. It's a strong band with bassist Sean Conly,the highly creative drummer Satoshi Takeishi and saxophonist Michael Attias. Monaco does not load her tunes with gimmicks, just good melodies and plenty of room for solo explorations - the rhythm section often dictates the pace and pushes the soloists forward. The title track is a great example, with both the guitarist and Attias (on alto sax) playing over the rhythmical cushion. Slinky is admittedly influenced by the noir" film scores of Bernard Herrmann yet it's not dark or foreboding but open and evocative. What's best about this music is its intimacy - one feels as if he's stepped into a 4-way conversation between close friends. A ballad such as So Much For Spring, despite its title, feels like a love song thanks to the quiet interplay of drums and bass, the lovely chordal work on guitar and Attias' heartfelt solo.
Other highlights include the pretty solo guitar take on Darn That Dream, the intelligent remake of Jitterbug Waltz (impressively melodic drum work from Takeishi) and Haifalutin with its melodic nod to the Middle East as well as Monaco's most expansive solo and Attias' muscular baritone playing (with a ever-so-brief and sly nod to Fiddler on the Roof.") HcKhh Blues, first recorded in the late 1960's by bassist Jack Bruce, is the hardest hitting track on the disc. Monaco wails" as does Takeishi and the piece rocks.
Do not enter the world of this CD expecting to be blown away but don't be surprised if you're seduced. It's a very strong group effort and one hopes this band moves out beyond its New York City home so more people can partake in its joyous and adventurous sounds. For more information, go to amandamonaco.com.
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