There exists a certain pocket of jazz -- somewhere in that R&B, funky ether, if you hit smooth jazz, you've gone too far -- where great things can happen. In this pocket is play. In this pocket is dance. In this pocket is authenticity. This authenticity cannot be faked, perfectly synchronized in a music school with its soul excavated. It comes from a hearth with a past; it's honed in groups that engender these things together. One can hear this immediately in the debut self-titled EP from Richmond, VA's Future Prospect.
Liberty Ellman has often been a secret weapon. Maybe it's what he's learned from the M-Base musical school of thought. Maybe his ears are made of pure magic. He's like salt-- seasoning and improving anything he's added to. In that regard, Ellman's collaborators often are as much a part of his voice as he is. It's always a delight to hear him play with bassist Stephan Crump or alto saxophonist Steve Lehman. Having them together in this configuration, blowing the lid off another group of compositions is an engrossing pleasure.
Beats & Pieces Big Band is immediately gripping. Band director Ben Cottrell has written songs with soul and bounce to them that this group performs with an infectious energy, which is frankly a bit surprising for a bunch of pale dudes from Manchester, UK. However, one can get drawn in quickly to Finlay Panter's drumming, or the siren of Anton Hunter's guitar, or in the perfect touch of Patrick Hurley's work on keys. There's so much that works so well in Beats & Pieces Big Band's latest album, All In.
The big band format can be a hard sell. It's a large machine and the moving parts frequently don't have a lot of room. Very often, as a reviewer, I personally give this caveat whenever reviewing big bands. I personally am not the man to listen to them, particularly in the straight-ahead format-- a now conventional style played in what was a rather conventional format. Yet every now and then, a group can perform the conventional conventionally but do so in such a technically well-executed way that such ability cannot be denied, even to the most jaded of listeners. Brooklyn big band Savoy In Color in their new live EP, Hear Today Then: Live at Zeb's somehow makes affecting music out of the everyday.
Frailty can be deceptive. Something's perceived weakness could in fact wield some hidden strength, forged from withstanding the elements. Like an insect's exoskeleton, eggshells, or a Brooklyn-based jazz quintet, sometimes frailty is the start of something more. This strength in frailty seems to be a driving factor in the sound behind GADADU.