Record Rack: Barry Altschul, Troy Roberts, Renee Yoxon and Mark Ferguson

The Old, the Young and the Silver Tongue

By Brian Arsenault

Barry Altschul

The 3Dom Factor   (TUM Records)

On the occasion of his 70th birthday, Barry Altschul proves that the passing years haven’t slowed his drumming or dimmed his compositional skills. Economy of motion and precision of thought seemingly take the place of youthful exuberance and energy, though he doesn’t lack for those qualities either. I remember seeing Buddy Rich in a Holiday Inn lounge, of all places, late in his career with a group of younger musicians making a glorious sound with his drums while he appeared to hardly move.

Along with Charles Lloyd’s recent album, Hagar’s Song, in celebration of his 75th birthday,  this album demonstrates that all of us aging past even extended adolescence can revel in the promise of extended creativity. Hopefully, anyway.

Two songs of many worth mentioning:

“Irina” opens with romantic, stylish sax playing by Jon Irabagon that turns in on itself, then is superseded by a bass solo by Joe Fonda that inverts yet again, then here comes a melodic sax once more. And drums, always drums underneath, filling silences, stepping forward then back.

“Oops” brings us Caribbean drum rhythms.  No, wait, the drumming moves further back, to Africa.  Altschul’s solo is mesmerizing. The sax comes in and you awaken. Where are we?  Lots of ideas floating around here. This sea is deep.

This album spans songs from Altschul’s career right up to the present. He hasn’t missed a beat. For technical insights beyond my range, there are Bill Shoemaker’s fine liner notes, like a short course in jazz evolution.

Troy Roberts

Nu-Jive 5  (XenDen Music)

While a veteran drummer leads a great trio, Australian-born saxophonist Troy Roberts heads up a combo that numbers the Nu-Jive 5 title with a cover that sort of looks like a dorm picture.  And I mean no disrespect.  This collection of young guys can play like crazy in support of Roberts.

Tim Jago on guitar makes a particularly strong impression, but they’re all good. Everyone gets a lead and every one holds his own.

Troy without question.  You’ll hear traces of Hawkins and Parker but you get the sense that the day will come when it’ll be said of a new tenor sax player that he reminds one of Roberts.

Roberts’ spaces between notes on a song like “One Day Wonder” makes you want more, like a fine glass of red wine after each sip. Ahhh. And he teases with surprise motion on “Mono Stereos.” Oh we’re going here, there.  Oh, ok, I‘ll try to keep up.

There are shifts of mood from the soft and melodious to brassy (as in bold) solos for all on “Night on the Town” where you’ll feel like you’re having one. You might even wish that Roberts was a bit more selfish on the solos because the band just lights up when he breaks in.

It’s all good.

Renée Yoxon and Mark Ferguson

Here We Go Again (Renée Yoxon)

I know, I know.  Regular readers of my reviews must be thinking “are there really so many fine female jazz singers on the scene right now?”  Well, there are and anyone who’s listened to the Ottawa silver bell named Renée Yoxon, who also writes great lyrics, knows it’s true again.

Add the plus that she and pianist, composer and arranger Mark Ferguson are just so  compatible that it seems they’re a permanent band rather than a single (hopefully not) collaboration.

And oh the lyrics: drinking morning after coffee with “the hope the hurt gets swallowed on the way.” Watching a lover “while you take off your disguise.” “But while the lights are low, Don’t go.”

Something here may enter the Great American Songbook, maybe more than one. No offense, Canadians, I know she’s yours but you don’t have to be from the States to craft such a song.

She sings. Ferguson plays. A great trumpet, Craig Pedersen, and a great sax, Frank Lozano, come and go just when they should. And she sings. Even when it’s just notes, no words, on the album’s bossa nova tribute, “Sao Paulo.”

She sings.

To read more reviews, posts and commentary by Brian Arsenault click HERE.

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