Monday 11 January 2016

New York Standards Quartet - London Jazz Festival

Tim Armacost
New York Standards Quartet
Tim Armacost – saxophones
David Berkman – piano
Michael Janisch – double bass
Gene Jackson – drums

Date - 22nd November 2015
Venue - Pizza Express Soho, London
Current Album - Power of 10 (Whirlwind Recordings)

Michael Janisch
NYSQ's latest recording, Power of 10 is their second release for Whirlwind and a tribute to their ten years of performing together. The band came together when three of New York’s busiest jazz players noticed they had one thing in common: Japan. Tim Armacost is a grammy nominated tenor saxophonist who has performed with Kenny Barron, Bob Hurst and Ray Drummond among many others, and is the group’s founder. He had lived in Tokyo several times and performed there for years. Gene Jackson, a drumming powerhouse well-known from his nine years in the Herbie Hancock trio as well as his performances with Dave Holland, the Mingus Band and Wayne Shorter, had recently married a Japanese woman and was splitting his time between New York and Tokyo. David Berkman, a fiery pianist who is both rooted in the jazz tradition and a harmonically adventurous improviser and composer, is a 30+ year NYC veteran of many bands including Tom Harrell, The Vanguard Orchestra and countless others. Berkman, also married to a Japanese woman, was traveling to Japan with increasing frequency.

Gene Jackson
Of course, it turns out they had a lot more in common than a love of Japanese culture. They had an approach to playing standards honed by their years on the NY Jazz scene, leading their own bands of original music and playing with jazz legends. Berkman, who writes much of the band’s repertoire, has a distinctive flair for re-casting well-known jazz standards in new and unexpected settings. ​On Power of 10, ​ Songs like “Deep High Wide Sky” and “Hidden Fondness” are melodies based on the chord progressions of “How Deep is the Ocean” and a reharmonized, “Secret Love”. In the band’s hands, his arrangement of the well worn standard “All of Me” becomes a daring, harmonically tense vehicle for Armacost’s mighty soprano playing and Jackson’s powerful drumming. Armacost’s arrangement of “Lush Life” brings a new perspective to this classic Strayhorn ballad and his "Green Doll’s Phone” is a playful treatment of “On Green Dolphin Street” written to showcase the brilliant technical prowess of bassist Michael Janisch who joined them for this recording. Gene Jackson, the band’s rhythmic center who drives the music forward with fire and infectious good spirits, is much in evidence throughout the session and contributes his arrangement of Elvin Jones’ “Three Card Molly.”

David Berkman
What began as a happy coincidence of three friends in a foreign land has grown into a mature collective that is more than the sum of its impressive parts. The band has toured extensively in Japan, the U.K., around Europe and the United States for ​t​en​ years. These days, that is an extremely rare accomplishment in the jazz world, where economic pressures work against band longevity. The close connection between the members is evident throughout this recording: an idea starts with one player and is picked up and developed by another​ ​risk taking and improvisation abound, but there’s a sense of warmth, enjoyment and shared purpose that permeates all of these performances.
This has become the hallmark of this group’s playing: an easy rapport with one another developed through ten years of playing together and interpreting jazz classics in a highly engaging and personal way. The audience response has been phenomenal, in part because they give the listener something familiar to grab on to, before throwing in the bends and quirks that NYSQ has become known for, creating modern shapes and visions of these well-known ​songs​. Or to quote John Fordham ​from The Guardian ​in his rave review ​from a recent UK tour:

“Deep High Wide Sky sounds like the Lee Konitz classic Subconscious-Lee, and Doll’s Phone Cause is a similarly byzantine bopper, driven hard by Janisch’s bass-walk. All of Me has an inventively reworked harmony and fresh rhythmic edge, an ominous Lush Life finds Armacost and Berkman reacting smartly to each other, and Hidden Fondness remoulds Secret Love as a vehicle for the gleeful collective energies of all four.”

As a thank you Whirlwind are  offering 30% off everything on their site from today until January 28th 2016.  Simply add the code JANUARY2016 on the Checkout page (there's a space provided that says 'enter coupon code') and your purchase price will be reduced by 30%. This discount applies on all site products: CDs, digital albums and individual tracks.

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