Saturday, July 2, 2011

Chuck Deardorf: Transparence

Origin Arts
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Transparence

Chuck Deardorf is one of many Pacific Northwest musicians who have made this locale a key area for jazz; he has lived and worked there for almost 30 years. He began playing the trombone as a youngster, but soon switched to acoustic bass; he then added electric bass and bass guitar. He’s a first-call artist for groups visiting Seattle, is currently a member of several organizations working in that region, often plays with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and — in his spare time — teaches at the Cornish College of the Arts. Deardorf’s discography as a sideman is extensive; this is his first album as leader.

Deardorf is joined here by a dozen artists with whom he has worked during his career. All but a pair of these — Hans Teuber and Richard Cole, on sax — are members of the rhythm section: Two are pianists, three are percussionists and the rest are guitarists. Deardorf, the sole bassist, utilizes acoustic and electric instruments as well as a bass guitar. The combos on this album vary from duets to septets.

The 10 tracks consist of several standards (including “Collage,” based on the chord structure of “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”), pop tunes (John Lennon’s “Dear Prudence” and Jobim’s “Zingaro”) and originals by some of the artists who participated in the session.

The tunes that utilize both bass and guitar (or guitars) are particularly noteworthy. Deardorf isn’t just a bassist who sets and maintains the rhythm; he’s an outstanding soloist capable of playing intricate runs and patterns which, in conjunction with the guitar(s), produce truly beautiful and breathtaking music.

You’ll listen to this album, in its entirety, again and again.

Marc Copland: Crosstalk

Pirouet Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Crosstalk

Musicians spend years learning to play an instrument well enough to earn a living performing with it; only a very few achieve that goal on more than one horn.

It’s relatively common to become fluent with several members of an instrument family: Those who can play the clarinet or alto sax are able to play the tenor sax; flutists and trumpeters often can perform on the flugelhorn and coronet. Less frequently, you’ll find musicians who can handle instruments that are less alike — both the trumpet and trombone, for example — and only a few become masters of “horns” in totally different families.

Marc Copland is one of those individuals. He was born in Philadelphia in 1948, and entered the jazz world playing alto sax. Although he experimented with an electronic version of the instrument, he became (in his words) “dissatisfied with the inherent limitations in the saxophone.” As a result, in the 1970s he relocated to the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area to become a jazz pianist. During the next decade, while learning his new instrument, he worked as an accompanist and sideman for artists such as Randy Brecker, Bob Mintzer and Art Farmer. Copland moved to New York in the early ’80s, working both there and in D.C.; he also toured. Since 2000, he has concentrated on small combos, with increasing emphasis on solo work.

Crosstalk, recorded in 2010 in New Jersey, features Copland, Greg Osby (alto sax), Doug Weiss (bass) and Victor Lewis (drums). Osby, Weiss and Lewis have been part of the New York City jazz fraternity for years. The album was mastered at MSM Studios in Munich, and released by Pirouet Records from that same city.

Seven of these nine tracks were composed by these artists: three by Copland, two by Osby, and one each by Weiss and Lewis. Another was written by Gigi Gryce, while “Tenderly” (the only standard) is a Walter Gross standout.

This quartet’s musical genre is “chamber jazz.” The original tunes, done at balladic and mid-tempos, are thoughtful and complex at times, and melodically rich. That said, my favorite track is “Tenderly.” Not long ago, a jazz musician explained — in the liner notes of a recent album — that he always enjoys it when artists play a standard, because it gives him an opportunity to assess their originality and style, relative to that of other artists who’ve performed the same tune. I feel the same way. Copland and his combo have produced one of the most beautiful takes on “Tenderly” that I’ve ever heard; it alone is worth the price of the entire album.

Storms/Nocturnes Trio: Via

Origin Arts
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Via

Storms/Nocturnes is an outstanding trio, composed of Geoffrey Keezer (piano), Joe Locke (vibraphone) and Tim Garland (tenor and soprano sax, and bass clarinet). All three began their professional careers playing straight-ahead jazz; as time has passed, they’ve graduated into the “chamber jazz” genre.

Via, their third release, offers music that is innovative and much more complex than what can be found on most jazz albums, but it’s beautifully done and guaranteed to leave you wanting more. Each musicians contributed three original compositions to this album.

Keezer, the youngest of the trio, began playing piano before he entered kindergarten and, after his first year at the Berklee College of Music, he became part of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He has recorded with numerous groups as a sideman and leader, and was nominated for Grammy Awards in 2009 and ’10. Locke is equally proficient; he has released more than two dozen albums as a leader and contributed to more than 100 as a sideman. The British-born Garland is one of few reed players also proficient on the bass clarinet (used extensively on this album. He’s a 2009 Grammy winner and frequent collaborator with Chick Corea.

The compositions here relate to locations that are special to each musician. Keezer’s inspirations are his backyard garden, created by his wife; a lane in Missoula, Montana; and a tropical ocean. Locke is enthralled by a retreat in Vermont, a stroll in Central Park during an early winter snowfall, and a music venue in Half Moon Bay. Garland is impressed by a Tuscan farmhouse and a couple of locations in England’s Lake District.

All three musicians interact exceptionally. Jazz can be beautiful!