Origin

For the next few days, I’ll continue playing catch-up with CDs that accumulated, and may have reproduced, while I was working on Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond (See Doug’s Books on the right). John Bishop’s Origin and OA2 labels concentrate on jazz in the Pacific Northwest. That gives Origin a large pool of talented musicians from which to draw. The label issues so many CDs that it’s hard to keep up with them. The music ranges from mainstream to the near edge of the avant garde. The sampler Modern Jazz: A Collection of Seattle’s Finest Jazz offers an overview, but merely hints at the riches of the Origin catalog. Like many albums by Origin artists, the sampler consists exclusively of original compositions. However satisfying that approach may be to the artists’ egos and sense of integrity, and regardless of how many mechanical royalties they avoid paying to the Gershwin and Porter estates, it presents a challenge to listeners who subscribe to the Broadbent principle. As you may recall from yesterday, that principle involves pianist Alan Broadbent’s conviction that listeners need and appreciate familiar melodies and forms with which to orient themselves. Trombonist Michael Vlatkovich’s trio CD Queen Dynamo offers a double whammy—nine originals as points of departure for free playing. I wonder how many record store or internet browsers unfamiliar with Vlatkovich’s blowsy, often optimistic, music are likely to add it to their shopping carts based on track titles like “The Length of the Tail Doesn’t Really Matter But it Does Have to be Bushy.” The music is funny and cheerful, and Jonas Tauber is one hell of a bass player.
Notes on a few other Origin and OA2 CDs:
Marc Seales Band, A Time, A Place, A Journey. A professor of music at the University of Washington, Seales is one of the Northwest’s most popular jazz pianists. This set by his sextet, recorded at Tula’s night club, shows why. It tends toward Seales’s reflective aspect and includes a slow “Deep River” ending on a powerful tremolo that releases the tension of exhiliration beneath the spiritual’s surface.
Steve Korn, Points In Time. Korn is the drummer on Seales’s album. Seales is the pianist on Korn’s. Two saxophones with a rhythm section play originals that are gentle, modal, peaceful, suitable for meditation. The CD is interesting until, about half way through, a sameness sets in.
Randy Halberstadt’s Parallel Tracks has only pieces by others, among them Artie Shaw, Bronislaw Kaper, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter and Frederic Chopin. Halberstadt wrote one of the best books on jazz improvisation, Metaphors For The Musician: Perspectives from a Jazz Pianist. Accompanied by bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer Gary Hobbs, he demonstrates with his refined touch, harmonic adventurism and humor that he knew what he was writing about.
Like Halberstadt, Johnson and Hobbs would be better known if they were based in New York. Johnson’s Near Earth is a successor to his Free CD of a few years ago and again presents the bassist in empathetic conjunction with the luminous saxophonist Hans Teuber and a drummer, in this case Tad Britton. The only standard tune is Johnny Mercer’s “Dream.” As in their originals, they take “Dream” out, but not so far out that they’re not near Earth.
Hobbs, who played in one of Stan Kenton’s last bands, is a thinking drummer whose arranging imagination is an important factor in his Of My Times. He blends horns and cello with each other and with conventional and unconventional rhythm section instruments for surprising effects, among them a sly funk version of “Oh, Suzanna,” langorous backdrops for Gretta Matassa’s vocal on “Besame Mucho” and the techno thrust of “Robot Love.” I would like to have heard fewer synthesizer features and rock derivatives and more of the lyricism of the title track, but Hobbs’s drumming is fascinating no matter what the context.
More tomorrow on items from the Origin storehouse

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