I had planned to write a lot more about new jazz this year, particularly in the last couple of months. Then I found out all it took to move a radio show from one station to another – and that’s BEFORE I had to learn how to drive the tractor-trailer! Well, anyway, I’ll try and do better next year, particularly since this year’s crop gave me over 100 CDs to consider for this list, and the stack’s already growing for 2015!
With that in mind, we’re splitting the column in two again, with the performance awards first:
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: BOBBY HUTCHERSON – Enjoy the View (Blue Note)
Despite long-term health issues, vibes legend Bobby Hutcherson still gets around, making the occasional appearance in concert and – in this case – in his first studio recording as a leader for Blue Note since 1977. And even though Enjoy the View is more of an ensemble date than a star turn, Hutcherson’s elegance (and eloquence) is knockout beautiful on a date that has more than a whiff of Blue Note recordings from back in the day. Whether it’s on altoist David Sanborn’s grooving “Delia,” B3 master Joey DeFrancesco’s bluesy waltz “You” or Hutch’s own roaring flag-waver “Hey Harold,” Hutch brings home the goods every time. Enjoy gives us a sweet time trip, as well as one more tantalizing glimpse of one of the greats. But unlike most looks we get of legends nowadays, this music is happening now.
LOCAL HERO AWARD (CD Division): ARCH STANTON QUARTET – Blues for Soli (WEPA)
After creating a sound on their 2012 debut Along for the Ride that nobody else in Greater Nippertown had made, the next goal for the Arch Stanton Quartet was to conjure up another set of kickass originals while avoiding Sophomore Slump. As some guy who likes to paint his feet in the bathtub nowadays might have said: Mission Accomplished. The second half of Blues for Soli says the Stanton Quartet could have made this happen without their whirlwind tour of Egypt in 2013. That said, the tone that’s set by the four monster tunes contained in the opening “Lady Egypt Suite” is about as blood-and-guts tough as you’re going to get. It’s still “garage-band jazz,” in that the ASQ is a no-frills outfit with a license to kill; however, there are layers of richness to this music that were only hinted at on Ride. What the future brings for the ASQ is anyone’s guess, but as far as I’m concerned, the guy in the bathtub said it all: “Bring it on!”
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.
1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … Unfortunately, like a lot of musicians from my generation, most of the first albums I bought would ultimately have negligible lasting or meaningful impact on my life/music. I remember buying a lot of ’80s hair-band rock early on, trying to find music that had energy to it, and where the guitar was featured prominently. Thankfully, I also had wise family members and others who exposed me to Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Cream and, most importantly, Neil Young, whose music I became fanatical about as early as age 14 or 15. In fact, both of my uncles gave me Neil Young cassettes at that time, including “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” and the “Decade” collection. As a beginner guitar player listening to Young, I had never before heard rock music where the rhythm-guitar playing was as complex as the lead-guitar playing, and where the guitar solos were rooted as much in melodic lines as in blues-based figures. (Previously, I had only been familiar with the Clapton/Page/Hendrix blues-based sound, which I also loved.) From “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” especially, I learned that a guitar solo can gurgle violently like a pot of boiling water one second, then splash like mist the next. Young’s sound is as mercurial as his ever-changing choice of genres.
NAME: Jim Ketterer
BAND AFFILIATION: Tern Rounders and the Arch Stanton Quartet
1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … “Some People Can Do What They Like,” by Robert Palmer. I was in a record store with my father, and I saw the album cover – with Robert Palmer and a woman playing strip poker as a taxi waits for them. That was enough to pique my 13-year-old’s interest, and I bought the album. It turned out to be filled with great grooves laid down by the amazing drummer Jeff Porcaro. I still have it. It was a lesson for me that sometimes you can judge an album by its cover.
2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … In the 70’s my friend and I spent the day attending the jazz festival at SPAC. We saw some of the giants in jazz history just before it was too late, including Sonny Payne playing drums with Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich and the Tashiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band. We were in jazz dork heaven.
There’s a new Nippertown jazz combo on the scene, and you can find out what they’re all about when the Arch Stanton Quartet blows into the spotlight at the Midtown Tap & Tea Room in Albany on Saturday (November 14).
And, no, there’s no one in the band named Arch Stanton.
The band features trumpeter Terry Gordon, guitarist Roger Noyes, bassist Chris Macchia and drummer Jim Ketterer.
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