Fields like boudoir photography and bedtime stories are grist for parlor room talk, but jazz with an intimate vibe has a mainstream appeal as though jazz music was meant to transport listeners into the bedroom. Jazz trio The Cheap Ensemble are world-class practitioners of this style of jazz. Their self-titled release is fraught with ambient soundscapes that lure listeners along a path of blissful swells. Track after track is a tranquilizing cruise along a stretch of warm tones and soft pulsations.
Starting the voyage off with “Pure Imagination,” the tune is anchored by the plume-like throbs of Dana Fitzsimons on drums and embellished by the gliding saxophone wails of Chris Otts and the balmy guitar chords of Patrick Arthur. The trio’s interpretation of Chick Corea’s score “Matrix” is a multi-tiered number with each instrument moving to an individual meter, highlighting contrasting textures. “Reflection” takes the recording back to a relaxing tempo, dotted in the smooth sonorous of the saxophone with a light sprinkle of cymbal taps in the backdrop. The ambient ethers are soothing on the aural senses.
The rhythmic pulse driving “Front” breathes finely carved raptures into the track, basted in the saxophone’s creamy luster. Arthur’s soft guitar strokes coasting along “Fortunate Son” lubricate the lambent drone of the saxophone, making for an atmosphere conducive to intimate settings. The recurring theme of bedroom-style fare courses through the wispy furls of the saxophone, silhouetting “Poor Butterfly” and acting as a gentle breeze gliding across the breathy ruminations of the guitar and the silky tones of drum strikes.
The music of The Cheap Ensemble embodies a particular lifestyle, one that fosters intimacy and relaxation. The trio’s self-titled release hones an ambient atmosphere that soothes and calms the listener. They make jazz music the way people expect mainstream jazz to sound.
Dana Fitzsimons – drums, Chris Otts – saxophone, Patrick Arthur – guitar
“Ithaca,” “Poor Butterfly,” “Volkslied,” “Pure Imagination,” “Matrix,” “Reflection,” “Front,” “Fortunate Son”