Dragonfly gerry Mulligan quartet

Dragonfly gerry Mulligan quartetDoes the west coast jazz sound pioneered by bari greats like Gerry Mulligan and Serge Chaloff hold up against a modern jazz context and musicians? This album pairs the unlikely bosom buddies  of Mulligan’s cool bari tone with modern edgy yet full tone of the late great saxophonist Grover Washington jr, cornetist Warren Vache, trumpeter Ryan Kisor and guitarist John Scofield.  As Mulligan’s final recording before his death he reminded us that his style of lyricism and story telling is still fashionable in a world of higher and brighter jazz.

I had all but forgotten this album until I heard it’s title track on the radio. It was then that I remembered that I did not actually own this album. I was released in 1996 and I hadn’t gotten around to purchasing it it. Most notably because it has Gerry Mulligan and Grover Washington. In 1996 i was much more about playing and recording alto saxophone than the horn I would eventually find my voice on, the baritone. As I grew my mulligan collection through the 1990’s and 2000’s it’s still odd that I missed this album. Thankfully I have it now and I’m glad i do.

I mentioned the guest performers on the tracks but the emphasis is still on Mulligans classic quartet and his luscious cool tone. Something of note is that while listening you might notice that Mulligans tone has added a little edge. not a lot of edge mind you but just a bit. I’m still tracking down his setup for this final recording but it does sound different. It could be the higher fidelity of recording between this album and the previous ones.

This album is Gerry Mulligan in his pure form and if you are a fan of his then this album won’t disappoint. If on the other hand you are expecting something totally new then you’ll likely be disappointed. Other than a few track the album feels comfortable and familiar. There isn’t anything wrong with that old familiar feeling but it did leave me wanting more Grover Washington Jr collaboration.

Final Thoughts: This album is solid but safe. It deserves a place in your collection but it won’t bump Konitz meets Mulligan or Mulligan meets Monk off of your bari sax rotation.

 

Shrintha Beddage Momentum cover art

Shrintha Beddage Momentum cover artIt should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ready my last 2 reviews of Shirantha Beddage’s albums that I’m a fan of his. I had some idea of what was to come on this album as Shirantha had tweeted its pending release. With the CD release only a month away  I was quite excited to get a copy in my hands and begin the process of consuming it.

Let me start by saying my favorite feature of his combined talents is his tone. Yes, you’ve heard me harp on his tone before and for good reason. I still feel his tone represents a modern take on the husky dark bari sax of yesteryear. It has the edge you’d expect for a soloist but the depth of a big band bari tone. It stands in opposition to what has been a trend towards the brighter more edgy sounds as characterized by players like Pepper Adams, Nick Brignola, Denis Diblasio, and Gary Smulyan. I find Shirantha’s tone to be much more in line with players like Del Dako, Bruce Johnstone, and young players like Adam Schroeder. It’s my hope we’ll hear more soloists take a fuller tone in the future.

Another of my favorite features of this album is the variety of musical styles that are on display. From the New Orleans inspired song Pork Chop to the silky blues groove of Drag and Drop to the traditional Angle of Incidence. Each piece connects to the next though an instrumental or thematic link.That is until you get to the unusual and brief tune Axis of Rotation.

One of interesting tunes is Axis of Rotation, i find the tune somewhat anxiety inducing and unsettling. It has a repeating piano rhythm that is played against the dynamic percussion of Mark Kelso. This motion combined with the melody line weaving in and out with minor tonalities is tastefully unusual. I liked when composer and performers can illicit emotions with their art. The piece is rather short so it stands in good opposition to the straight ahead jazz of the next tune on the album, Angle of Incidence.

The last song on the album, the Long Goodbye, has gospel feeling without taking you church. It could be the soulful piano intro or just the fact that many phrase endings have that solid major resolution. The piece really bookends the album and brings you back to where you started with a simple melody and brilliant playing. It’s the kind of piece that sends a fond and sincere goodbye to the listener with the promise of a bit more in the future. I certainly hoep that is the case.

Listening to the album is like taking a trip with Shirantha as he points out his favorite places along the way. This album is a journey worth taking.