I understand less than a teaspoon of the total jazz output, and that has succeeded in keeping me well beyond an arm's length of even trying. I don't know why I treat jazz and classical differently, like they're not still music but I do. There's something about jazz and my perception of its culture that keeps me from trying to get my ears around it, and consequently I've lost out on some great music.
One of the great advantages of doing this thing I do here at BC Magazine and at Confessions of a Fanboy is that sometimes music I wouldn't go looking for finds me. Such is the case with Commitment and Change, the Fast Horse Recordings debut of trumpeter Dave Carter. Rather than having to go looking for it or even having to take a gamble on something well outside the scope of my typical interests, this album came to me. It is already becoming one of my most listened-to albums of the year.
Carter may not be a household name, but he's spent the last several years amassing some impressive performance and recording credits. He recently moved to the San Francisco Bay area from Seattle and has performed with Wayne Horvitz, Bill Frisell, Skerik, Robin Holcomb, Tim Young, Amy Denio, Aiko Shimada, and Eyvand Kang among others. He has also guested on Tuatara's West Of The Sun and Martin's solo records The Painted Desert and Earthspeaker.
Even though I'd been looking forward to this album since Fast Horse founder Barrett Martin first mentioned it early this year on my BlogTalkRadio program B-Sides Concept Album, there was some apprehension on my part when it arrived. What do I do with a jazz record? Apparently, just listening was not an option- at least not one that came to me immediately. I was completely unprepared for how stupid I was for thinking I somehow needed to prepare myself at all.
The opening notes of “Short Street” mesmerized me. Piano/keyboardist John Rangel's piano and Barrett Martin's quiet, light touch drumming instantly disarmed me. When Carter's trumpet and upright bassist Luis Guerra – another Martin collaborator – joined in, I felt the tension leaving my body. This was no longer jazz to me, it was music. The swinging, nocturnal sounds enveloped me. I couldn't explain it, but I understood it.
The mystery of “Pusa Lulu,” the album's second track, is anchored by the foundation of Guerra's upright bass. Rangel trades his piano for a keyboard, and over the course of the track he and Carter establish and explore ethereal themes. The beauty of those ideas would float away, but are given weight by Guerra's bass.