Posts Tagged ‘Eric Alexander’

Hot on the heels of drummer Andrew Dickeson‘s recent collab with US horn player Eric AlexanderIs That So? – comes his new one, The Song is You. Where Is That So? went for the classic tenor/piano quartet template, on this new album Dickeson has gone for the more minimal sound of tenor/guitar, lending the music a more astringent and modernistic texture.

2009 10 16 Andrew Dickeson pics by Kyle Powderly 708-1ps

Pic by Karl Powderly

Of course Dickeson is much more than simply a drummer. A writer-arranger and mainstay of Australian jazz for years now, he is an inspiring figure and one within whom Jazz classicism burns bright. Any occasion Dickeson is also the bandleader is always an event. This album, built around the visit to Sydney of alto/tenor player Nick Hempton from NYC is no exception.

The Song is You takes an eclectic approach, evidenced (pardon the pun) by the Monk opener ‘Trinkle Tinkle’. Thelonious’s knotty tune is relished by the group with Hempton taking an authoritative solo over Monk’s anarchy, and Dickeson’s drum solo playing in and out of almost random-sounding melodic fragments. The wit and sense of fun in Dickeson’s arrangements across the album is a joy.

‘Moonlight in Vermont’ takes the unusual approach of Hempton playing the ballad head, solo,  across a Cuban rhythm on high-tuned toms. It is dislocating and vaguely surreal until the band enters, with Ashley Turner‘s cooly considered bass solo a highpoint.

The rarely heard Cedar Walton tune ‘Shoulders’ moves with a robust swing allowing guitarist Carl Dewhurst to really dig in. It is a pleasure to hear Dewhurst again, now that he is back among us. Over the last few months I have heard him play electronic experimentalism, blues-rock and rockabilly. But, listening to his solo here, I can be sure there is a special room in his musical soul for classic jazz guitar, unadorned and blues-soaked. His solo on ‘Shoulders’ is constructed with a clear trajectory, as the fluid single note runs turn to surprising chords dropped in as the band heats up.maxresdefault

‘Blues for Riyo’ is everything a spontaneous blues should be, with Dewhurst and Hempton conversing in an almost telepathic vocalese. Hempton’s tenor tone is beautifully round here; shades of Ben Webster, perfect for the blues. As on the ballad track, ‘You’ve Changed’, the band shows it can do shade as well as light with impeccable taste.

This light and shade comes across on the Bernie McGann home-grown beauty ‘Spirit Song’, Dickeson handling the skipping 3/4 rhythm deftly. But shade is put aside on the album closer ‘It’s You or No One’, a triple-time bop cooker where Dewhurst and Dickeson trade swift and spirited fours, while barely breaking a sweat.

Dickeson’s startling arrangement of the  title track, the Kern/Hammerstein standard ‘The Song is You’ is the highpoint, to me, of the album. A few weeks ago I heard Sydney vocalist Kate Wadey perform it in a relaxed and intimate setting – and I was reminded why a beautiful and enduring tune it is. Dickeson’s take has the tune morphing from 7/8 to 4/4 with rhythm hits, then moving to a 3/4 waltz figure which ritards – not only does this complexity work seamlessly, but Hempton solos easily over it, before the band settles on a driving swing.

With The Song is You Andrew Dickeson has once again produced a work that moves forward while holding to the tenets of tradition in the music. The strength of the jazz past runs through everything he does, while his inspiring and inspired spirit makes it live today.

The Song is You is being launched ay Sydney’s Venue 505 on Thursday 6 September.

Andrew’s website is http://www.andrewdickeson.com

 

Advertisements

We love Andrew Dickeson.

The Sydney jazz drummer has long been the epitome of elegance, both in his playing and in his style. Always dressed to the nines and with that secret smile as he plays (what does he know that we don’t?), Dickeson is a direct link to everything that is good about jazz and the fine art of jazz drumming. A modern classicist, it is always a delight to hear him play.

His new album – Is That So? – is a delight too. Recorded with US tenor player, Eric Alexander, its nine tracks cover wide and fertile ground, from streamlined bop to bossa nova and Afro-Cuban grooves, all serving to showcase Dickeson’s versatility and impeccable taste. Andrew Dickeson2

Eric Alexander is an excellent partner for this project as are Wayne Kelly on piano and bassist Ashley Turner. All four are coming from the same good place – that of 50’s and early 60’s jazz where the modernism of hard bop and ‘cool’ had formed into an alloy that was one of the perfect expressions of the art form.

From the opener – title track ‘Is That So?’ a rarely-played Duke Pearson tune – you can hear the quartet’s perfect dynamic balance. A sublimely swinging piece, its high point is Dickeson’s melodic drum break that, typically, says all it needs to say with taste, precision and economy.

Alexander’s nimble solo on the classic ‘For all We Know’ shows him also to be a master of restrained swing – though he can produce flashes of fire out of the smoulder.

The Ahmad Jamal-inspired ‘On The Trail’ shows pianist Kelly’s cool empathy: chiming comping giving way to a sparkling solo. Ahmad would approve.

The Rogers and Hammerstein chestnut ‘Surry With The Fringe On Top’ is here a totally different vehicle to the horse-drawn original. Dickeson mentions in his notes that he wanted to take a more modern look at the tune, so the band has stripped it down and built it back up into an exhilarating mix of jagged, almost Monk-like riffing juxtaposed against streamlined swing sections. And it works – beautifully.

Andrew Dickeson1Ballads are often where even the best swingers come unstuck, but the reading of ‘To Love and Be Loved’ here is perfect – the balance of all elements, the emotional rise and fall, are like faceted crystal, coolly dazzling.

Moving into more rarified feels, Dickeson leads the band into Afro-Cuban territory with an almost Horace Silver feel to ‘Invitation’ and a smooth, yet parrot-bright bossa nova on ‘O Barquinho (The Little Boat)’. The edgy syncopations and complex rhythm patterns are ‘swung’ by the band as easily as anything else on the album – a tribute to the fluid rapport of the rhythm section.

Closing cut ‘Iron Man’, an Eric Alexander original, allows the band let off some steam on a bright ‘blues with a bridge’. They cook, but the heat rarely rises above a simmer, Alexander flaring out some occasional Coltranesque lines and Dickeson striking matches in the shadows. The restraint keeps it tight and exciting.

Dickeson writes of recording the title tune – ‘Is That So?’ – “(it was) so simple and catchy that you can’t help swinging and smiling”. And it is that spirit that pervades this nine-track set. Is That So? might just help us to figure what Andrew’s secret smile is all about. Do listen.

I have come late to the amazing playing of Sydney’s Michael Griffin.

Walking into an Andrew Dickerson Quintet gig off the street I was floored by this pale young man utterly flying on that most nimble of the jazz horns – the alto.

It seems I am just one in a long line of admirers, many notable, of Griffin’s mastery. US jazz legend Jimmy Heath has said “Michael Griffin is a fine saxophonist who loves Charlie Parker’s style as I did when I did,” and none other than Vincent Herring sums it all up well when he says “Michael Griffin has his feet firmly rooted in tradition and his ear leaning towards the future.”

The judges at Washington DC’s 2103 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition obviously agreed, voting Griffin through to the semifinals.

pic by Aaron Blakely

pic by Aaron Blakely

Griffin’s debut album – Unexpected Greeting – showcases his startling playing. It also expressed so much of what is good and eternal about jazz – swing, verve, colour and that jumping joy that be-bop encapsulated so well.

As well as six Griffin originals – standouts are the hard driving opener “Hotel Hollywood” and the fleet and blazing “Flair” (reminiscent of Art Pepper’s frantic “Surf Ride”) – the Quintet covers four standards, with guest vocalist Briana Cowlishaw giving a lovely rendering of “Almost Like Being In Love” and “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” getting deep inside the wit and the urbane poetry of the lyric on each.

In march, for AustralianJazz.net I asked Michael Griffin six questions about his art and his album. Here are his responses:

___________________________________________________________

 AustralianJazz.net: Are you happy with the way your debut album, Unexpected Greeting turned out?

Michael Griffin: Yes I am very happy with the way my album has turned out. I feel there is something in it for everyone which is really what I want. I want to do what I love and I will never compromise what I love and the way I play but at the same time I always have a desire for everyone to enjoy my music. Hardcore jazz fans and also someone who doesn’t know much about jazz. I always hope that I can somehow appeal to everyone.

AJ: Your playing and compositions obviously reflect the influence of Charlie Parker and the hard bop players like Cannonball Adderley. Who is of particularly influence in shaping your conception?

MG: As mentioned I clearly am greatly influenced by Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley, I also really love Sonny Rollins so much and of course Coltrane. So many, but those four are huge. I never get tired of learning from all of them. In more recent times I have also really enjoyed studying the work of Kenny Garrett and Vincent Herring. For me I love so much the modern bop players, especially Kenny and Vincent. One group I love is Vincent and Eric Alexander together, now those guys really cook. Hard swinging players which are constantly building and taking from previous influences to keep swinging hard and using the bop language as it develops.

AJ: What is it to you about hard-swinging, bop-flavoured jazz that you prefer over other forms of jazz?

MG: For me i enjoy virtually all jazz, however the jazz that speaks to me the most and gets me passionate is the hard swinging bop. So much in it. It’s an amazing language which to me is the absolute best part of jazz. Full of the blues, soul, the entire jazz language . When you have a band that’s cooking and really swinging and someone that is just locking in with that groove and burning full of ideas, to me nothing better. It’s the music I hear in my head all the time. To me I also I think there are so many great things in jazz however the best thing of all is that addictive swing feel. People lose sight of that and it’s the worst thing to lose. Out of all the things in jazz that is the most powerful thing in jazz which can hook in anybody. It’s never uncool to swing. But it has to be done well, When it’s done properly with energy and intensity and tight and full of passion it’s the most incredible ride that I always envisage myself being a part of.

AJ: Why did you choose to add the vocal tracks to the recording?

MG: Adding vocal tracks to the album was a decision I made, number one, because I thought it sounded good, it’s fun to mix things up. However also because people like vocals, they connect with them and I always want to give everyone something they can grab onto and get something out of what I’m doing. If I can give them something they can hold on to then they can stick with me for the rest of the journey, and are open to hearing other adventures i may introduce them to. I want to take everyone with me, not just the purists.

AJ: What are your thoughts on music in general and jazz in particular today?

MG: There is always good music being made, jazz will never die. Too many passionate people which always fall in love with this music and dedicate their lives to it. It’s not something which you just listen to every now and then. When you get bitten by the jazz bug it takes over your life. The only thing I will say is for people to try and make the same effort presenting jazz to audiences that other artists do presenting rock or pop etc. I love bands that make the effort to get people’s attention and keep them interested in jazz, There are a few out there, but I especially liked the Brassholes, Showing people that horn sections don’t just belong at band camp but could make today’s pop tunes sound awesome. It also makes jazz seem less foreign. A great idea and people loved what they were doing. We’re playing somewhat challenging music but let’s do all we can to invite people in and take them with us.

AJ: What is next for Michael Griffin?

MG: Next install for me is I’m looking to hopefully move to New York soon. I had an amazing time last time I was there and I want to live there, develop myself and get as good as I can and see how far up the world Jazz ladder I can climb.