Friday, September 28, 2012

Matt Garrison: Blood Songs

D Clef Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Blood Songs

Matt Garrison is proof that one need not be born into a musically oriented family, in order to become a successful jazz artist. Neither parent is a musician; Dad was a draftsman and CADAM designer, and Mom was a quilter and crafts maker. Regardless, young Matt developed an interest in the saxophone and, early on, demonstrated a desire to rearrange the music used by his high school concert band, and compose his own melodies. 

Garrison earned both an undergraduate and master’s degree at the Purchase Conservatory of Music, in Westchester, New York. Garrison is fluent with three of the reed instruments; he plays tenor, soprano and baritone sax on this release. 

The album title, Blood Songs (his second release for DCleff Records), is a musical tribute to his parents. Six of the songs are Garrison originals; one (“The More I See You”) is his arrangement of that standard; and two others are composed by trombonist Michael Dease (“Force”) and trumpeter Greg Gisbert (“Modern Man”). 

Garrison’s core group is a quartet, with pianist Roy Assaf, bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. This release also features five guest artists: the aforementioned Dease and Gisbert who appear on all the tracks, plus tenor sax artist Eric Alexander and guitarists Dave Kain and Andrew Swift, who contribute one track each.

No matter the specific cadre utilized, the result is a happy, swinging set; all the tunes are done at mid- to up-tempos except for the single standard, which retains its original balladic format. The arrangements are not complex, yet every horn plays a role in the unison passages, and the solo work is excellent.
I liked the album the first time I played it, and loved it during repeat playbacks.  Garrison is a true talent, both on horn and as a composer/arranger. He and this group have a bright jazz future.

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