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Music Review: Various Artists – A Year of BFM Jazz 2011

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With the contraction of the economy and the music industry in particular, it can be difficult for independent artists to maintain a consistent platform. BFM Digital created the label BFM Jazz in 2010 as a way to give jazz players more public attention. These aren’t unknown players trying to make their marksthese are well-known, veteran session/studio players creating their own musical statements.  A compilation album, A Year with BFM Jazz 2011, celebrates the one-year anniversary of the label’s birth.

Steve Gadd, one of the most respected, sought-after drummers on the scene today, has worked in many genres and is known for his inventive use of rhythm. This is evident in his up-tempo version of the Horace Silver classic “Sister Sadie,” taken from the album, Live at Voce (featuring Ronnie Cuber on baritone).

Accomplished percussionist Luis Conte contributes two pieces (“Water Pots” and “Conga Melody”) from his CD, En Casa de Luis. These ethereal, lighter-sounding mood pieces stand at the opposite end of the musical spectrum from the straight-ahead jazz on this collection. From reed player Bob Sheppard’s album, Close Your Eyes, minor- and diminished-scale riffs on the aptly-named “Surface Tension” and “Brain Fog” resonate a bit darker than other songs on the CD.

The compilation also contains two releases from pianist Larry Goldings‘s solo piano recording, In My Room. “Crawdaddy“ is a New-Orleans feel-good piece (it’s a bit mellower than one might expect) while “Libre” is a contemplative improvisational ballad that reflects Bill Evans’ impact in phrasing and intonation.

Speaking of Evans, pianist Alan Pasqua counts him as an inspiration. His album Double Bill consists of dual-track duets on which Pasqua accompanies himself on songs associated with or inspired by the jazz legend. “Vindarna Sucka Uti Skogarna” is a traditional Swedish song performed by Evans’ trio in 1964.  “Grace,” written by Pasqua, is a ballad that pays tribute to the master.

Two songs from trumpeter/composer/big-band leader John Daversa ‘s CD Junk Wagon – The Big Band Album are also included. “The Bridge, part 1” features a multi-layered rock-style beat, replete with a rap-influenced vocal. “Junk Wagon” takes a rudimentary chord progression and adds multiple layers, throwing in odd rhythm changes along the way.

In the album American Road, the Tierney Sutton Band recreates some classic folk songs in a jazz setting, making them sound fresh and new in the process.  The band gives “Wayfaring Stranger” an understated Latin beat as Sutton injects some vocalese that fits perfectly into the song’s restless theme.  “Shenandoah/The Water is Wide” is given a wistful, dreamy treatment.

This compilation offers the listener a good introduction to the musicians involved. Besides giving exposure to some well-deserving artists, A Year with BFM Jazz 2011 reminds us of the diversity and breadth of the musical form we call jazz.

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About Phillip Barnett

Phillip Barnett is a software geek with multiple, conflicting musical fantasies. He has played jazz piano, folk guitar and klezmer clarinet (not all at the same time - that would look ridiculous and would probably hurt his back).