Bad Guys


Plays the Music of Albert Mangelsdorff


[Clean Feed Records, www.cleanfeed-records.com]

Lisbon-based Clean Feed Records has been releasing consistently solid recordings for the last four years. Latest batch of material continues that tradition.

American trumpeter Jack Walrath fell into a deep void for the last couple of decades. His warm style is now restored full force in an exhilarating quartet he has put together with Portuguese bassist Zé Eduardo. The remaining two members of the quartet - tenor Jesus Santandreu and percussionist Marc Miralta - both hail from Spain. What we have then is a truly international outfit pumping out pure jazz. Walrath sounds like a newborn that was given a trumpet. His over-the-top playing is heartfelt and most off all free-spirited. Sure, the pieces are written but there is plenty of room for Walrath [along with all other members of the quartet] to leave their improvisational mark. Zé Eduardo is in fine form. Listen to the way his bass rumbles and keeps a snappy but forceful pace during Charles Mingus' "Sue's Changes". An often powerful trade-off between tenor player Jesus Santandreu and Jack Walrath ensues. While it's the trumpeter's name that's clearly in the headlights on the album sleeve, with his masterful and bold statements, Jesus often steals the show. Though much of the time, the quartet concentrates on playing ballads, when they pull punches, as they do on the rousing "Prou", the whole place shakes. "Bad Guys" highlights a highly powerful and energetic quartet that showcases many worldly talents of all members.

New York based, Israeli saxophonist Michael Attias wrote the first version of "Credo" back in 1996 in Tel Aviv. Having origins in the French countryside, while full of spiritual significance, Michael has penned a very personal suite. He admits this piece is filled with flaws but nonetheless, it's important that we hear his youthful musical aspirations. Teaming up with Reut Regev on trombone, bassist Chris Lightcap, drummer Igal Foni and on various pieces - Mark Taylor on French horn and Sam Bardfeld on violin - "Credo" feels like an intimate journey into the composer's soul. Michael Attias is not ashamed to showcase his klezmer styling throughout this long suite. His blowing on both alto and baritone is convincing and really aspiring. The tension that is apparent when he teams up with trombonist Reut Regev is invigorating. Her playing is full of punch and pizzazz. To be fair, I only wish some of the pieces were more direct and to the point as the ensemble tends to meander in too many points. They simply feel too comfortable with each other to bring other new ideas to the table. Otherwise, "Credo" maybe full of innocence and youthful ideas, but it's a crucial statement nonetheless.

Is it really the case that nobody had the balls to record a tribute to the German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff? Until now, that is, when trombonist Joe Fiedler finally attempts this long overdue feat. Never less than charismatic, Mangelsdorff was known for his audacious styling. The trick was actually in capturing the feel and the free-spirited and gifted manoeuvres that Mangelsdorff was so known for. It didn't hurt one bit that Fiedler studied composition extensively and was familiar with issues such as jumping octaves within a single phrase and focusing on upper register for extended periods of time. He admitted to sharing "similar sense of drama and humour along with the use of extended trombone techniques" to those that Mangelsdorff has used. Having said this, the record is full of warmth and humour. Bassist John Hebert and drummer Mark Ferber are perfect partners in this game. The hollowed-out bass plucking is a perfect complement to Fiedler's often swinging trombone shouts that never stay in any register for too long. Likewise, percussionist Mark Ferber perfectly colours the landscape around him with delicate cymbal touches to give it a colourful quality. Not one piece in the bunch really stands out as the playing is consistently good throughout. Without an obvious sound of fanfare, this is one of the better tribute records I'd heard all year.

We come full circle to Portugal. This time around pianist/composer Bernardo Sassetti tackles cinematic music on "Ascent". Utilizing two different trios - one with a drummer and a bassist and another one with a cellist and a vibraphone player - he tackles two distinct mountains at ones. First is the traditional piano trio, while the second one is the cinematic mode of music making. The traditional jazz trio pieces are melodic, superfluous and generally romantic. There's nothing wrong with romanticism on its own sake, but when it's dealt in overt quantities, it leaves a sweet taste in your ears that's difficult to dispense. Nonetheless, some rich piano playing emerges from this session. The title piece is rich in shimmering drumming courtesy of Alexandre Frazăo and underplayed bass from Carlos Barretto. Moving forward on "De um Instante a outro", Bernardo's playing approaches that of a softer, more minimal Keith Jarrett. On the "chamber" pieces, Sassetti's playing is just as confident, though he tends to underplay a lot of the time. Cellist Ajda Zupancic provides fine, contrasting lines to Sassetti's more traditional, fine-tuned, and melodic playing. I'm not sure where he's heading to next, but I want to follow Sassetti's development closer from now on.

- Tom Sekowski

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>> ZE EDUARDO / JACK WALRATH QUARTET - Bad Guys / MICHAEL ATTIAS - Credo / JOE FIEDLER TRIO - Plays the Music of Albert Mangelsdorff / BERNARDO SASSETTI TRIO 2 - Ascent

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+ TOP 7 - 2005