Posts Tagged ‘Larry Grenadier’

On Ethan Iverson/Lee Konitz

Monday, August 5th, 2013

This review appears in the August 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

Ethan Iverson/Lee Konitz/Larry Grenadier/Jorge Rossy
Costumes Are Mandatory

By David R. Adler

The smartest thing a younger jazz player can do is to seek wisdom from established masters of the music. Pianist Ethan Iverson has done this again and again, gigging with the likes of Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Albert “Tootie” Heath and Billy Hart. On Costumes Are Mandatory he joins alto saxophone great Lee Konitz in a session full of idiosyncrasy and varied repertoire, from “What’s New” to “Try a Little Tenderness” to “317 East 32nd Street,” the Lennie Tristano classic (miscredited to Konitz on the back sleeve, though not in Iverson’s liner notes).

Bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy, who worked together for years in Brad Mehldau’s trio, provide just the right feel — relaxed but deeply swinging. If anything Grenadier is more the timekeeper, while Rossy blurs and deepens the textures. Grenadier’s bowing on the abstract piano-bass duet “Mr. Bumi” (named for pianist Masabumi Kikuchi) is especially strong.

The spirit of Tristano, Konitz’s old teacher, hovers over the set. Iverson alludes to some of Tristano’s distinctive practices: using a metronome on the piano-drum duet “Bats,” overdubbing or tweaking the piano sounds on “It’s You (Tempo Complex)” and “My New Lovers All Seem So Tame” (the latter a short prelude to “My Old Flame,” on which Konitz scat-sings). The turbulent piano trio showcase “A Distant Bell” — based on “I Remember You” — also builds on Tristano’s (and Konitz’s) discipline of using standards as groundwork for new inventions.

Konitz remains warm and inescapably melodic on the horn, though he bows out on a number of tracks. He sails smoothly on “Blueberry Ice Cream,” Iverson’s hip midtempo blues in A, played in two takes that start and close the album. His duet with Grenadier on “Body and Soul” stands out as well — hard to believe Coleman Hawkins recorded his historic version two days before Konitz’s 12th birthday. There’s a logic and unhurried pace to Konitz’s phrases and the band’s outlook as a whole, a sense of old musical values underneath a commitment to the experimental.

Year of the Snake

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

This review appears in the October 2012 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

Year of the Snake (ECM)

By David R. Adler

From its eponymous Savoy debut in 2004 to its ECM breakthrough Sky & Country in 2009, the collaborative trio Fly has never lacked for spontaneity, compositional depth and fully rounded musicianship. But with Year of the Snake, the band’s sophomore outing for ECM, tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard have risen to a new level. They bring abstraction and mystery but also mathematical precision to the date, and each composer has at least one “wow” moment — a creative leap that signifies not only a personal best, but also a gain for music in general.

The trio opens with Turner’s moody contrapuntal theme “The Western Lands I,” and this becomes the basis for collectively composed sketches interspersed throughout the program. The variations (II through V) range from unsettled and playful to meditative and chamber-like; the final one sounds something like a harbor at night, far-off and remote. Sonic experimentation and extended techniques are not Fly’s usual bag, but the approach works, balancing out the more rigorously planned material. The immaculate ECM sound does wonders for Ballard’s percussion especially.

More than ever, Fly succeeds in seeming huge and harmonically full — far more than expected from a trio without a chordal instrument. Turner’s ambitious entries are “Festival Tune” and “Year of the Snake,” both fast and elliptical, and “Brothersister,” a sparse waltz with startling metric crosscurrents in its opening and closing moments. Ballard’s “Diorite” and “Benj” are breakthrough achievements, with forbiddingly complex rhythmic passages that demand superb execution but also a sense of fluidity and breath. Grenadier brings in just one piece, “Kingston,” but it is the longest track and arguably the album’s top highlight. The explosive outro, with its fast and repeating double-stop figure for arco bass, is unlike anything on an acoustic jazz record in recent memory.