Jazz-2K: CD Picks of the Week

Reviews by J Hunter

In the spirit of the New Hampshire primary, Jazz-2K shows solidarity with the business community by starting the year their way – with a closeout sale of cool stuff from 2011!

The Tierney Sutton Band: American Road
“American Road”
(BFM Jazz)
This one made a lot of Top 10 lists, and it’s easy to see why: Tierney Sutton doesn’t do “shouty”; she’s all about finding nuance within the nuance of her material. As such, she doesn’t need any foil sharper than the bottomless expression of Christian Jacob’s piano as she takes us on an evocative tour of the Great American Songbook. Sutton’s haunting take on Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” hints at the reality Tony and Maria chose not to face, while “My Man’s Gone Now” puts Bess’ rage on the same level as her loss. The driving background of “On Broadway” minimizes the poverty of the guitar-playing protagonist in favor the excitement and possibilities of New York City, while the schizophrenic arrangement of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” shows how fast life can change gears on you – both up and down. Another triumph from one of the genre’s best interpreters – and the band that makes her music a cut above.

Miguel Zenon: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook
“Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook”
(Marsalis Music)
Zenon continues to build his personal portfolio beyond SFJAZZ Collective with another thrilling examination of his native land’s jazz legacy. Many of the compositions go back to the 1920’s, but Zenon brings them effortlessly in the present day with a solo attack that is soft as velvet one moment (Tito Curet Alonso’s “Temes,” done as a two-hander between Zenon and bassist Hans Glawischnig, sharp as a knife the next (the majestic “Olas Y Arenas”). Pianist Luis Perdomo’s own epic solo voice is loud and clear on the multifaceted title track, and drummer Henry Cole adds powerlifter-quality muscle to the rideout on “Juguete.” If “Alma” has any “faults,” it’s the too-vast orchestrations of Guillermo Klein – beautiful, to be sure, but they really make you yearn for the simple elegance of Zenon’s base quartet… not to mention Zenon himself, whose talent seems to be growing exponentially.

Yotam: Brasil
(Jazz Legacy Productions)
Since we’re below the equator anyway, let’s move from Puerto Rico to Brazil with the help of Yotam (aka Yotam Silberstein), one of the most exciting trad-jazz guitarists to come along since Russell Malone. This Israeli native has truly blossomed since joining John Lee’s burgeoning label, and this examination of the land of Jobim is simply dead solid perfect. But although Yotam does give Jobim a direct nod with his sultry take on “Antigua” (featuring airy flute by fellow JLP artist Sharel Cassity), most of the material comes from lesser-known artists of the genre. This avoids comparisons with older, better-known recordings and lets Yotam’s performance be judged on their own glowing merits. Reed magician Paquito D’Rivera adds a slip of the hip to “Saudade de Bahia”, while acoustic guitarist Toninho Horta’s mesmerizing foundation makes Yotam’s own composition “Nocturno” completely simpatico with the classics he covers. “Brasil” just makes you want to dance, and that means Yotam’s succeeded… again!

Rob Garcia 4: The Drop and the Ocean
“The Drop and the Ocean”
(Brooklyn Jazz Underground)
Kris Kristofferson had the best line in the movie “Songwriter”: “Do you deliberately make it hard on yourself just so you can stay interested?” When it comes to the Rob Garcia 4’s second disc, the answer is a resounding, “HELL YES!” From Noah Preminger’s first Morse Code-like notes on “Will” to the last tap of Garcia’s three-piece drum suite “Flash,” absolutely nothing goes as expected, and the easy way out isn’t even considered, let alone discussed, as this epic quartet dances around the edges (and, occasionally, dives right into the middle) of jazz’ avant-garde. Garcia has the disc’s sole songwriting credit, but the spirit of collaboration and improvisation is so strong on every track that the rest of the band could have gotten equal billing. Preminger’s tenor sax doesn’t scream like Ornette or Albert Ayler, but you can definitely hear their influence; John Hebert’s bass solo on “Boundaries” has more than your daily diet of quality content, and Dan Tepfler’s jaw-dropping solo work solidifies his standing as Brooklyn Jazz Underground’s most death-defying pianist. “Drop” does one of the best things any disc – of any genre – can do: It doesn’t insult your intelligence by deciding you can’t handle the truth. And the Rob Garcia 4 is most definitely the truth.

(Envoie Recordings)
The concept behind this piano-free quartet goes right back to its name – that is, all four players are merely spokes in one wheel, and those spokes lead back to a central sound that’s pretty much unheard in the genre these days. Justin Wood’s laser-sighted saxes handle the high end, while Andy Hunter’s broad trombone takes care of the low end, and the resulting harmonic is a consistent head-turner – as is the music, which takes as many cues from classical music as it does from jazz: Hunter’s ‘bone is ofttimes less a trumpet substitute than it is a replacement for a French horn, bassist Dan Loomis bows as much as he plucks, and pieces like Wood’s “The Cantors” and Loomis’ “Quic” don’t have sections as much as they have free-standing movements. Combine this with the fact that drummer Danny Fischer would rather hiss like Motian than bang like Blakey, and the result is the first real “chamber jazz” disc that’s actually worth more than a casual listen. “Succinct” has acres of drama and passion, but they’re next-door neighbors to a band-wide sense of shading and dialogue that makes Spoke’s quietest moments just as pronounced (and just as important) as its loudest ones.

1 Comment
  1. Richard Brody says

    love the cd reviews – keep them coming, but once again you are going to cost me $$$

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