Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Autumn with the Nuttree

The weather is turning. The track of the sun is getting southerly and creating those great slanted shadows. The air is starting to have that crisp feeling and the hint of leaves turning has begun. It is the time of year that turns my musical interests to listening to jazz and thinking about wandering through the streets of the city to a jazz club to hear some swinging music while sipping on something in a tall, cool glass--or these days at least trying to create that atmosphere even while the boys are running around like maniacs at home. And here is a nice new disc to help create that atmosphere.

The Nuttree Quartet is John Abercrombie (g) Jerry Bergonzi (ts) Adam Nussbaum (d) and Gary Versace (B3) and the new(ish) disc is Standards which is a solid disc of (mostly), well, standards with a few more jazz-fan oriented pieces (by standards writers) thrown in. The majority of tunes are played by the full quartet although there are a couple trio settings as well that mixes things up nicely. The musicians are all proven performers in their own right. In fact, in one sense, it is tempting to see the disc as too straightforward and too standard--what's new about four veterans playing standards afterall. But that is a mistake.

As Ken Micallef notesin the Downbeat review: "Playing standards may be as old as Job, but what better way for modern-day masters to weigh in on the state of the art?" And they weigh in nicely.

For the most part the arrangements are upbeat and free-flowing with Bergonzi’s tenor often taking the lead pass. His sound is big but not overbearing at all. The solos are fluid and a nice mix between lyrically driven riffs and a bit more free-ranging takes—although this is always pretty straight-forward jazz. Abercrombie’s smooth guitar, both as part of the rhythm section and in his solos, serves as a nice counterbalance to the bigger sax sound and Nussbaum is on the mark throughout whether on brushes or driving the more upbeat pieces where I think he really excels.

If I have one reservation it is the B3 parts—not because I don’t like the B3 (I. in fact, love it) or even because I don’t think Versace does some nice work here. When I saw the line-up for this album, I was imagining the album being a bit more driven by the B3 and since Versace is in more of a traditional rhythm section role here (with some notable solo exceptions) I almost wish they went all acousitic here, but that is a minor note in an otherwise perfectly enjoyable effort.

I am going to give you three real standards here to sample. Although keep in mind that there are a some more chilled out pieces mixed in with tunes like these.

Our Love Is Here To Stay
All Or Nothing At All


dr said...

I think I'd enjoy seeing them, but based on Naima don't know about the record. But I'm blinded by the 50s and 60s.

CPS said...

dr--needed a break from Troopergate, eh?

Two things. One, I totally get that 50s/60s sensibility--this is definitely not a Blue Note type of disc (part of my reaction to the B3 aspect). That said, I might have not done well to feature "Naima" which is a little different than the rest of the album (and the last track btw).