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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 15, No. 2 October 2009

Off the Record: The Tradition In + Out

by Paul Serralheiro / October 1, 2009

Mahall/Dörner/Roder/Jennessen: Die Enttäuschung
Intakt CD 166 (www.intaktrec.ch)

Right from the first notes of “Rocket in the Pocket,” the music jumps off this disc with the joy and freedom of the best bebop. What makes this different from a lot of bop-inspired releases is not just its quirky experimentalism, but the playfulness which is supported by excellent musicianship. These guys can “play” in the full sense of the term. The trumpet/bass clarinet combination of Axel Dörner and Rudi Mahall involves sympathetic counterpointing, as in “Hopfen,” or sinewy unison lines, as in “Tinnef,” and most of the other tunes as well, all in keeping with a bop aesthetic. Bassist Jan Röder gives the music a fresh feel with his unorthodox lines, landing on quirky intervals and stretching the walking bass concept in creative ways. Uli Jennessen’s drumming is not so much time keeping as mood setting; it’s not all swing-feel, followed by a latin beat or anything so hackneyed. Again, the “play” element dominates. Yet, that doesn’t mean there aren’t deeper moments, as in the ballad “Uotenniw” and the poignant “Rumba Brutal.” These Berliners who covered the music of Thelonious Monk a decade ago, only to be joined a little later by pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach in the Monk’s Casino project—seen here last summer—have a good sense of humour, something foretold by the ironic album/band title, which translates as “the disappointment.” This disc serves up well-penned tunes with entertaining solos and an infectious spirit of clowning that seems to come out of the deep, albeit ragged, pockets of the human condition.

Cory Weeds: Everything’s Coming Up Weeds
Cellar Live CLO11909 (www.cellarlive.com)

When listening to Vancouver saxophonist Cory Weeds’ second release you’d swear it was being played by a band featuring Hank Mobley or Lee Morgan. The hard-bop vocabulary is intact right from the opening swagger of “B.B.’ Blue Blues,” both in Weeds’ hot tenor solo and the smoking lines spun by trumpeter Jim Rotondi. This may sound like 50s hard bop but isn’t. Is that a good thing? For sure, because in the eight originals—Frank Loesser’s “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” is the only standard—we get a set of originals with intricate, convincing melodies and harmonies. Even if drummer Willie Jones III is no Art Blakey, nor is John Webber a Paul Chambers, they are obviously steeped in their language and come across as satisfying purveyors of the tradition. In this New York studio session, recorded after a stand by the group at Small’s, we get inspired playing, both technically first rate and full of imaginative, soulful material. There are hard bop cookers with titles like “Biru Kirusai”, “Bailin’ on Lou,” and “The Pour”—all with earthy tones, and driving, bluesy rhythms. A sultry ballad like “Little Unknown One” shows Weeds’ ability to form a meaningful full-bodied tenor theme-and-variations sequence reminiscent of Sonny Rollins. “Cyclaman,” showcases Jim Rotundi on fluegelhorn, which he plays a little less satisfyingly than the trumpet, though he sets up the theme nicely. Icing the cake here is pianist Ross Taggart, who supplies some beautiful chordal support for a band that cooks from start to finish.
Cory Weeds Quintet in performance at Upstairs Jazz Bar, Oct. 9 & 10

(c) La Scena Musicale