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Music Reviews: Jazz Potpourri Featuring Matt Criscuolo, Ernie Watts Quartet, and the Mike Bogle Trio

Matt Criscuolo – The Dialogue

The Dialogue is an April release from alto saxophonist Matt Criscuolo, who fronts an ensemble featuring guitarist Tony Purrone, bassist Dave Anderson and drummer Will Calhoun. This follow-up to his well-received Headin’ Out release has the quartet working on an eight-tune set of original compositions, two (the title song and “Ronnie’s Tune”) by Criscuolo, one (“Duramoly”) by Purrone, and two (“A Child’s Dream” and “West Haven Knock Around”) by the pair. They round out the set with three jazz classics: John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” Wayne Shorter’s “Fall,” and Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss.”mattcriscuolo3

The Dialogue is the right name for this album, which is at its best in the hard-driving interplay between Criscuolo and Purrone. Together they lay down a dynamic modern sound that pushes limits. This is especially clear in their work on the classic pieces. “Giant Steps” has a rapt intensity, while the Ellington cover echoes with melodic sensitivity.

Ernie Watts Quartet – Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time may keep turning, but when a group of musicians have been playing together for 15 years, they develop a rapport that allows them to keep up with turning time. Accomplished tenor saxophonist Watts has Christof Saenger on piano, Rudi Engel on acoustic bass and Heinrich Koebberling on drums.Wheel_Of_Time_CD_cover_index

The album features four tunes from Watts, including the haunting title song “Wheel of Time (Anthem for Charlie)” that is dedicated to revolutionary bass player Charlie Haden, and one each by the other three members of the quartet. If there is nothing particularly revolutionary about their music, there is also nothing stale about this April release from the Watts foursome. This is good solid jazz played with style.

Variety is the key word for their nine-tune program. A little blues, a touch of calypso, some post bop, a classic jazz standard—it is a set that has something for everyone.

Mike Bogle Trio – Live at Stoney’s

Live at Stoney’s is a May release from pianist Mike Bogle, with bassist Lou Harlas and drummer Steve Barnes completing the trio. It, too, features a nine-song collection of both originals and (jazz) standards, here with some of the immediacy and spontaneity often generated by live performance.

They open with a childhood theme via Chick Corea’s “Humpty Dumpty,” which is then followed by Herbie Hancock’s “Speak Like a Child.” Bogle swings his way through Dexter Gordon’s “Fried Bananas,” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Upper Manhattan Medical Group” leads into a noire take on “Prelude to a Kiss.”

Of the four Bogle originals, “Down Home,” which closes the set, lives up to its title, and “Lona’s Tune” is a splendid ballad. The pianist drives his way through “Ninguno Experiment,” while his “Thanksgiving” is a melodic gem.

Performances of all these tunes are available on YouTube. Here’s “Down Home”:

 

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