Tuesday , May 21 2024
New albums from Craig Yaremko Organ Trio, Adam Unsworth with John Vanore and Byron Olson, and The Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble.

Music Reviews: ‘CYO3’, ‘Balance’, and ‘Music of Ryuichi Skamoto’

Yaremko_Front_Cover-300x265CYO3 marks the debut for multi-reed player Craig Yaremko’s Organ Trio, featuring organist Matt King and drummer Jonathon Peretz, with guitarist Vic Juris making a guest appearance on two of the album’s 11 tracks. Yaremko, who plays soprano, alto and tenor sax as well as flute and alto flute, explains in the liner notes that one of his college teachers, saxophone great Jane Ira Bloom, heard him playing with a student organ group. She told him his “sound was made to play with an organ trio.” Bloom knew what she was talking about.

Yaremko, King, and Peretz combine with a special chemistry, whether they are swinging through a King arrangement of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” exploring Brazilian rhythms in Yaremko’s “Sprung,” or offering a sensitive reading of the Billy Strayhorn ballad, “Isfahan.” Other jazz classics in the set include Monk’s “Bye-Ya,” where Juris joins in, and the popular Freddy Hubbard composition, “Little Sunflower.” Yaremko takes up the alto flute for this last.

Unsworth-BALANCE-Cover-150x150Balance, the new album from the triumvirate of Adam Unsworth (French horn), John Vanore (trumpet) and Byron Olson (arranger/conductor), merges the essential elements of jazz with the colors of art music. The album’s concept co-ordinates a stellar jazz ensemble with each of two larger chamber ensembles. They play original music arranged specifically for the individual soloists and the ensembles. The result is a dynamic sound with exciting jazz solos and rhythms working with and against lyrical melodies, sometimes in the background, sometimes brought front and center.

Along with Unsworth and Vanore, who have feet in both worlds, the jazz ensemble consists of Bob Mallach (tenor saxophone), Bill Mays (piano), Mike Richmond (bass), and Danny Gottlieb (drums). They work with two different chamber ensembles, one recorded in Philadelphia, the other, a smaller group, recorded in New York.

The idea of combining jazz with classical modes is not new. Many jazz musicians have sought the supposed prestige of the classical concert hall, often with great success. The music on Balance—from the quirky “Tilt” and the wistful “Blues Nocturne” to the elegant “Michele”—promises success for it as well.

For those of us unfamiliar with the music of the Yellow Magic Orchestra and the experimental electronic fusion of composer/pianist/singer Ryuichi Sakamoto, will find Meg Okura and The Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble’s new album, Music of Ryuichi Sakamoto, an excellent introduction. Sampling pieces from the wide range of the musician’s career, Okura’s jazz-centered arrangements are truly effective explorations of the possibilities inherent in the composer’s musical eclecticism.

Meg_Okura_SakamotoCDlgAt times emphasizing Eastern exoticism, at times the Western idiom, the twain do indeed meet in the ensemble’s fascinating version of material from his film score, “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” and the opening track, “Grasshoppers.”

Techno covers such as “The End of Asia” and “Thousand Knives,” Okura explains in the liner notes, were “made entirely anew, far from the originals, while ‘The Last Emperor Theme’ was kept close to its original score with some improvised solos.” Indeed, she makes clear that a variety of arranging techniques—from remix in “Perspective” to re-composition in “Grief”—are used throughout the album.

Okura, who plays violin and erhu, is joined by Anne Drummond (flute, alto flute), Helen Sung (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass), and E. J. Strickland (drums).

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