Review by J Hunter
THE ARCH STANTON QUARTET
Along for the Ride
You don’t have to re-invent the wheel to do something distinctive in jazz. Instead of emulating Ornette Coleman and blowing the model to smithereens, you can follow Thelonious Monk’s example of adding one variable that separates your work from everybody else’s. The Arch Stanton Quartet has a pretty stock instrumental format, and they play pretty standard forms of jazz. But it’s not what they do that makes Along for the Ride a great debut recording – it’s how they do it!
Things start off quite normally, with an opening title track that’s your basic post-bop head-nodder. Composer Terry Gordon’s trumpet leads the charge with notes that are clear, bright and full of purpose, and the band keeps it skin-tight as Gordon displays the power we’ve all come to expect from him. There’s no piano in the ASQ, so there’s no natural “softener” to act as Gordon’s foil. If guitarist Roger Noyes played in the Wes Montgomery/Pat Martino mode, he could pick up the role, but that’s not Noyes’ style: Even though his solo conforms to the Montgomery form, Noyes’ sound has a pack of Rottweilers living inside it, with sharp teeth and Rebar-strength muscle. So while the composition doesn’t stray far from the norm, the performance lets you know that things are going to be different around here.
Noyes’ composition “Modern Sleuthing” starts out as a mournful blues with Gordon playing muted notes over drummer Steve Partyka’s funeral-march beat… but then the piece suddenly finds this so-very-crunchy groove, Partyka gives the backbeat a lot more oomph, and Noyes starts snapping out a seriously attitude-centric solo. Gordon’s free-styling “Flying Gurnard” has elements of his previous, self-named quintet, but the stripped-out nature of the ASQ gives the piece a street-brawling nature; another Noyes’ piece, the semi-staggering “Della Royale,” has the kind of anarchic vibe embodied by the Pennsylvania provocateurs Mostly Other People Do the Killing. Even “straight” material like Gordon’s bossa “Watching the Storm Go By” and Noyes’ Latin-jazz “Twilight Curves” have concrete and steel at their base, making them anything but light-hearted throwaways.
Partyka’s best work happens when he’s Scott Amendola to Noyes’ Charlie Hunter, infusing the Stanton Quartet with the kind of sound that’s made jam-banders see what jazz can do when it joins the 21st century. Partyka’s solos on “Gurnard” and Noyes’ über-shuffle “Compared to What” combine good lyrical sense with muscle-car power. Conversely, bassist Chris Macchia has better luck when he eschews solos in favor of support; however, his moment in the clear on “Gurnard” is a definite winner and helps set the tone for that mid-section exercise in rubato.
Given the raucousness that had come before, closing the disc with the reflective “Estate” has shock value all its own. However, the shimmering beauty Gordon and Noyes spin from their duet take on the Bruno Martino standard gives the date a well-crafted coda.
Again, the Arch Stanton Quartet hasn’t re-invented the wheel here. However, the way they do the things they do makes Along for the Ride anything but typical, and that’s good – because there are days when you really need to go beyond the typical.
The Arch Stanton Quartet launches their debut album “Along for the Ride” with a CD release party on Friday (November 16) at More Bread & Jam in Cohoes. The band’s former drummer Jim Ketterer will also slated to stop by and sit in. CDs will be available for $10. Doors open at 6:30pm; music begins at 7:30pm. Admission is free; donations appreciated.