Sunday, 21 October 2007

Christian McBride New York Time Quartet..

This disappointing record comes from the same series as the John Abercrombie CD reviewed below. I sometimes wonder why anybody bothers to make lukewarm and mediocre records of this type anymore, but clearly there's still a market for jazz nostalgia, and it can sometimes turn in a few surprises.

No surprises here, just another mainstream session that adds little, if anything, to the jazz legacy. The kind of record that is jazz's equivalent to a Hollywood re-make of a classic (or sometimes not even classic!) film, it just leaves me wanting to listen to the wonderful music that Walton and Cobb made 40 years ago.

That can't have been Chesky Records' intention, but they surely couldn't honestly have thought that New York Time would re-write history, could they...?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE with Javon Jackson, Cedar Walton and Jimmy Cobb

Newest Blues; Sixth Ave; My Shining Hour; Notes In Three; In The Kitchen; Naima; Grove; Whisper Not; Diane; Mode For Joe.

Javon Jackson (ts); Cedar Walton (p); Christian McBride (b); Jimmy Cobb (d)
Recorded January 2006.

Part of the same ‘New York Sessions’ series as John Abercrombie’s recent Structures, the New York Time Quartet unashamedly evoke the days when the famous city was the undisputed jazz centre of the world. Both Jackson and McBride may surprise listeners familiar with their recent excursions into fusion and jam-band turf, but placed alongside two of hard bop’s greatest survivors they find themselves rooted considerably further back in time. Using Chesky’s ‘one-mic’ recording technique and the spacious acoustics of St Peter’s Episcopal Church, NYC, the sound is as warm and as well balanced as the carefully selected programme of material.

Anything presented here, even the pieces penned by McBride and Jackson, would sound at home on one of the great Blue Note or Prestige recordings of the early ‘60s. Over the course of a pleasantly good-natured hour there’s no doubt that the group’s two elder statesmen are calling the shots, and with the last living link to Kind Of Blue at the traps, who could argue?

Walton’s ‘Newest Blues’ is a jaunty, upbeat opener and immediately gets the good times rolling. The Latin-tinged ‘Sixth Ave’ develops from a gospel-tinged intro and again avoids any undertow or tension. The temperature rises slightly for a spirited romp through ‘My Shining Hour’, but it’s not really until Jackson’s tricky ‘Notes In Three’, a fetching 3/4 head, that that the group seem to be stretching. The blues drenched ‘In The Kitchen’ restores the feelgood factor, and although the reading of Coltrane’s ‘Naima’ is very literal, Jackson’s heartfelt playing, which swaps his usual cloak for that of the composer, impresses.

Benny Golson’s ‘Whisper Not’ gets an elegant and dignified treatment, though Jackson’s real identity is even harder to pin down here. His playing on the self-penned ballad ‘Diane’ is very personal, however, and one of the high-spots of the disc. ‘Mode For Joe’ is an invitation to the saxophonist to pay homage to his major influence, Joe Henderson, and that’s exactly what he does. Walton’s fluid solo is crisply underpinned by Cobb’s trademark snare accents, perfectly setting the stage for the saxophonist’s entry. Sounding more like the player that fans of his promising Blue Note outings of more than a decade ago will remember, he doesn’t disappoint.

Undeniably a session more characterised by relaxed swing than the sound of surprise, Cobb and Walton are however in cracking form throughout. McBride and Jackson do nothing to rock a very harmonious boat, but if you’re after something with a more contemporary edge, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, May 2007)


Anonymous said...

What a pompous review. Exactly why is every jazz album supposed to be ground-breaking? Just dig the CD for what it is. "Rewrite history"? So lame. If you want to rewrite history, learn how to play an instrument and start your own damn band, or become a producer.

Ferdinand said...

Thanks for your colourful comment, anonymous.

The answer to your question of 'why every jazz album is supposed to be ground breaking' is of course that very few of them can be, and it's not something I'd routinely expect. What I would expect though is some imagination on behalf of performers and producers to create a sincere product that I can recommend people to go out and buy.

I couldn't honestly recommend that anybody who knows what these guys are really capable of should go out and spend their hard-earned cash on it. If that's my opinion, and it is, why should I tell people otherwise?

I think that my glib comment in the preface to the review about 'rewriting history' remains valid for this reason: If the producer didn't expect to get something special out of this stellar quartet when he offered them the gig, he simply shouldn't have made the phonecall. If he expected it but the musicians failed to deliver then 'nice try', but your session is still mediocre and as soon as you release it into the public domain it is there to be shot at...