Friday, October 1, 2010

Janek Gwizdala: Mistery to Me - Live in New York (2005)

Here is a debut album of some distinction that successfully brings together electric and acoustic instrumentation in a set of fascinating if slightly sombre contemporary jazz that provides a setting of rich tone colours for some distinguished solo performances. The controlling mind behind this project is one Janek Gwizdala, a young English musician living and working in New York and he has assembled some quite formidable talent, of whom Mark Turner is probably the most eminent in terms of his star status, to help him achieve his musical objectives. Next to Turner, visibility wise comes John Ellis, whom I’ve recently discovered by listening to Charlie Hunter and I wouldn’t argue against anyone who earmarked him as one of tomorrows frontrunners. The other members of this unusual band are by no means subordinated by these high profile names for the music operates very much as a collective enterprise with no one being particularly showcased and everyone getting an opportunity to demonstrate their talent. Composition credits aren’t given but I wouldn’t mind betting that they all stem from the pen of the leader because they have a sort of stylistic thread running through them. They range from moody arias like the atmospheric title track whose theme is movingly delineated by the triumvirate of Turner, Maret, and Miller and “Time Stands Still”, which utilises the wordless multi tracked singing of Gretchen Parlato, to more abstract but quite accessible post-bop statements that benefit enormously from the orchestrated combination of instrumental sounds and washes. Despite the presence of synthetic sound the music never descends to the level of smooth jazz, thanks to the strength of the solo contributions and Mayer’s masterful drumming which presses into service all available contemporary pulses and applies them with flexibility and intelligence. Apart from Gwizdala, whose playing is new to me, my new talent award must go to another Englishman, Elliot Mason, who is highly effective at the key boards tying everything together with chordal effects and space-age riffs but also doubling to great effect on bass trumpet and trombone playing in the post modern manner we associate with the likes of Ray Anderson. Definitely someone to be watching. Gwizdala himself seems to come out of the Pastorius stable and when he gets some space to solo (most extensively in the final piece) that influence is quite evident, however it is his contribution as a arranger and composer that impresses more than his playing, good as it is, and, without wishing to sound patronising, it augurs well for the future of jazz that music of such sophistication and originality is coming from one so young. The recording is excellent; it is said to be live but apart from one brief introductions episode, which occurs before the last track (I suspect a mix up in the track listings) the audience appear to have been air brushed out because you don’t hear a whisper from them. It doesn’t matter because this isn’t superficial good time music that needs the endorsement of whoops and hollers to help it find its pace and my enjoyment was in no way diminished by the absence of a live atmosphere.
Personnel: Janek Gwizdala (electric bass) Tim Miller (guitar) Jojo Mayer (drums) Gregoire Maret (harmonica) Gretchen Parlato (vocals) Elliot Mason (keys, bass trumpet & trombone) John Ellis (bass clarinet & soprano sax) Mark Turner (tenor sax)
01. Mystery to Me
02. Why
03. Joshua
04. Darkness
05. Time Stands Still
06. P.K.
07. Circles
08. A.M.S.K.
09. B's Song
10. And Another Thing
Mystery to Me-Live in New York
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