Monday, September 29, 2014

Leslie Pintchik: In the Nature of Things

Pinch Hard Music
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: In the Nature of Things

I was introduced to this performer while reviewing an earlier album — We’re Here to Listen — about three years ago. She was good then, and she’s better now. 

Pintchik began as a literature teacher at Columbia University, then became a jazz pianist and composer; I described her style at that time as “genteel jazz.” Well, she’s less genteel now, and swings a lot more.

This album features a sextet: Pintchik is backed by an alto and soprano saxophonist, trumpet/flugelhornist, bassist, drummer and another percussionist. Eight of the nine tracks are her own; the only standard is Lerner & Lowe’s “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” That tune is done as a ballad, as are many of her originals; the remaining up-tempo swingers demonstrate how far she has moved into a style that truly burns. She has left the Marion McPartland approach behind, currently resides Bill Carrothers’ neighborhood, and is approaching early Bill Evans. 

Pintchik has a delicate touch on the keyboard, a characteristic that’s particularly effective on the tempos she seems to favor. She also has a style that intermixes single-note melodic lines with chords played with both hands, following the same lines she initially established with that expressive right hand. It’s a technique that forces a listener’s attention; you always want to hear what she’s going to play next.

Her previous albums have utilized smaller groups (trios and quartets). She has increased the instrumentation to include reed and brass horns on this release; that expands the complexity of her compositions and arrangements, which I find quite pleasing. 

So far, she limits her performances to New York City and closely surrounding areas. Tell you what: I promise to go back to school, for a remedial course in English literature, if she’ll broaden her arena to include some venues on the West Coast!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Eddie Allen: Push

Edjalen Music
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Push

Eddie Allen is another New York City-based musician who has been around for years, and is admired by his peers, but remains relatively unknown by the general public. He was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, attending the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and University of Wisconsin, and then earned a bachelor of music degree from New Jersey’s William Paterson University. 

He worked around the Chicago and Milwaukee areas, in a mixture of groups and genres — R&B, rock and Latin — before heading to New York, where he concentrated on good ol’ straight-ahead jazz. He has performed with Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter and many other icons.

Allen plays trumpet and flugelhorn, arranges, composes, writes and teaches, and is active with his own combos and a big band. This album features a septet: trumpet, trombone, tenor sax, piano, another keyboardist, acoustic bass and drums. Allen composed eight of the nine tunes on the menu; the sole exception is Anthony Newley’s “Who Can I Turn To.” Needless to say, Allen also did all of the arrangements. 

The tunes are a smooth mix of mid- to up-tempo swingers and ballads. It’s quite pleasant to have this group’s variation of horns; the unison passages are nicely orchestrated, and the solo lines are excellent. These guys may not be “name” artists, but they really groove. Just listen to “Hillside Strut,” and you won’t be able to keep your fingers from snapping. 

The operative word for this unit is tasty. There’s no honking or screaming, just great bop-tinged, straight-ahead jazz. Let’s hear more from Mr. Allen!