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The aptly titled “Right On Time” is a great jazz achievement.

Right On Time (PR8191)

Ken Fowser – Right On Time – Posi-Tone Records PR8191 56:02 ***** 5 stars

On his eighth release for Posi-Tone Records, Ken Fowser has established his credentials as a composer and band leader. Fronting an impressive sextet (Joe Magnarelli/trumpet; Steve Davis/trombone; Ed Cherry/guitar; Brian Charette/organ; and Willie Jones III/drums), Fowser opens stylishly on “Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors”. With organ guitar and drums anchoring the bluesy jam, the saxophonist solos first with a concise straight jazz feeling. Charette follows on organ, displaying accessible soul chops before handing it off to Ed Cherry’s groove-based hooks. The composition (all originals) has chord modulations, a cool vamp and repeat chorus. With Latin-infused imagery, “Samba For Joe Bim” reflects the band chemistry, showcasing fluid sax runs and nimble drum accents. On “Duck And Cover” the group emulates straight ahead jazz with an agile solo on saxophone that segues to finger-snapping runs by trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and trombonist Steve Davis. Charette’s sprightly organ percolates, driven by Cherry and Jones. The arrangement skills of Fowser are on display with “ No Filter”. The introduction displays harmonic elasticity as Fowser, Davis and Magnarelli intermingle with fluency. Every instrumentalist gets to solo with finesse and colorful inflection. It is classic jazz and consistent with great jazz ensembles of the past. The group reunites at the end with glowing texture and eloquence.

In a change of pace, “Don’t Let Life Pass You By” is structured by a gentler 3/4 time signature. Fowser’s “blue” saxophone has both delicacy and potency with the right amount of flourish. Charette’s airy, melodic solo is hypnotic and Cherry’s wistful guitar sways with relaxed inflection. There is an organic murmur inside the jam. Drummer Jones kicks off”On My Way” with attitude. This medium-swing number features dynamic solos from Fowser and Charette with several drum fills and syncopation. The horns return for “Keep Doing What You’re Doing”. Revisiting blues/jazz, the sextet glides with fierce precision, replete with “nasty” solos by everyone. When they combine it is a tapestry of in-the-pocket erudition. “Fowser Time” is a full ensemble arrangement with a triple lead (sax, trumpet and trombone). Charette anchors the rhythm section. Fowler gets things started with a muscular solo framed by a chord modulation. Davis’ saucy trombone is next and is followed by Cherry’s hook-driven run and Magnarelli’s crisp trumpet notation. Charette adds another soul jazz solo before the triple lead wraps things up with judicious timing. In a nod to melancholy, Fowser and Cherry share a harmony lead in a low-key waltz (“A Poem For Elaine”). There is considerable atmospheric resonance as Fowser, Cherry and Charette solo respectively. The finale “Knights Of The Round is vibrant and up tempo. The reed/brass combination is blended with adroit cohesion. In succession, Fowser, Manganelli, Cherry and Charette cook with ferocity. A well-deserved solo by Jones leads to the big finish.

The aptly titled Right On Time is a great jazz achievement.

Robbie Gerson – Audiophile Audition

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Get your coins ready for the “Jazz Jukebox” by Jordan Young

One of the strengths of Marc Free’s Posi-Tone imprimatur is that it is responsible for introducing us to many great and upcoming jazz artists. Drummer Jordan Young is a Detroit native who has studied with some of the best of the modern-day masters and is making a name for himself in New York. His sophomore release for Posi-Tone, Jazz Jukebox, is a bristling thirteen-track collection that lives up to its name. There’s a nice smattering of standards, pop ditties, and hard bop chestnuts, each clocking in between three and four minutes. While the brevity of the performances might be construed as a negative on first glance, it actually further ties in with the theme at hand. Think seven-inch 45s with a song on each side and you get the idea.

Two pieces with ties to the classic Blue Note era of the 60s kick off the date. “Son of Ice Bag” figured prominently on Lonnie Smith’s Think album, while Larry Young’s “Paris Eyes” is a gem from the organist’s Into Somethin’. Both receive a contemporary update with Brian Charette‘s iconic organ tone at the forefront. On the bop front, Wayne Shorter’s “E.S.P.” gets a spirited romp bolstered by Young’s dry cymbal beat. Guitarist Matt Chertkoff speaks volumes both in his solid comping and fleet-fingered solo work, his tone and attack sounding like a cross between Melvin Sparks and Pat Martino.

Charette keeps it lowdown and greasy on Jimmy Smith’s “Eight Counts for Rita.” By contrast, he calls up some vibrato and gets that classic ballad feel on “I Want a Little Girl.” Young likes to play with various grooves and manages to put a different spin on such disparate material as the theme from “Love Boat” and Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle.” The former starts almost like a second line groove before morphing into a funk beat, while the latter number moves as a high octane waltz.

Tenor saxophonist Nick Hempton can be heard on four of the tracks and doesn’t necessarily add or take anything away from the proceedings. What makes the trio cuts sparkle is the obvious connections these players have developed on the job. Jordan himself doesn’t go out of his way to deliver flashy solos, but instead serves the music with his tasteful interjections. As just one example of many, listen to his tasty fills on the Charette’s toe-tapping “Giant Deconstruction.” Utilizing a vintage Gretsch kit, Young sounds like he’s done his homework. Given even wider parameters, I would love to hear what other things he’s got up his sleeves.

C. Andrew Hovan – All About Jazz

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A polished trio fronted by an articulate drummer is “Jazz Jukebox”

mindset2The predominance of the jukebox in social situations is essentially a thing of the past. But how much has really changed? Those once-ubiquitous machines that brought musical happiness to the good people in corner bars and diners throughout the land may have vanished, but the concept they put forward has not. It’s simply been modernized, with shuffling playlists, random streaming, curated listening parties, and smartly programmed albums like this now carrying the jukebox flame and furthering the mix-it-up musical formula.

Jazz Jukebox is exactly what you’d expect, both based on the title and what drummer Jordan Young cooked up on his first two albums—Jordan Young Group (Self Produced, 2010) and Cymbal Melodies (Posi-Tone, 2012). It’s a diverse program built on sharp and concise arrangements of jazz and pop nuggets. Everything from Thelonious Monk‘s “Rhythm-A-Ning” to Jim Croce’s “Time In A Bottle” and Hugh Masekela‘s “Son Of Ice Bag” to Charles Ira Fox’s campy “Love Boat” makes it into the mix, and nothing overstays its welcome. The longest tracks don’t even crack the four-and-a-half minute mark.

Young keeps things moving here, largely focusing on upbeat material pulled from different corners of the music world. He nods to Larry Young with a performance of the organist’s jaunty “Paris Eyes,” gets his sloshy hi-hat going for a spell on The Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping,” prods organist Brian Charette and guitarist Matt Chertkoff during their solos on Wayne Shorter‘s “ESP,” and trades with glee on “Tadd’s Delight.” If that’s not enough variety, there’s also Charette’s “Giant Deconstruction,” an odd-metered, ascending twist on John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”; Jimmy Smith’s soulful and bluesy “Eight Counts For Rita,” one of four numbers to bring tenor saxophonist Nick Hempton into play; and Chertkoff’s arrangement of “Will You Still Be Mine,” a caffeinated brush feature for the leader.

In choosing to work with Charette and Chertkoff, Young capitalizes on musical relationships that have been fostered over a long stretch of time—basically week in, week out at Tribeca’s Authentic Bar B Flat and other New York haunts. Due to those bandstand-forged connections, this crew is incredibly comfortable in its own skin. That’s something that tends to cut both ways. On the positive side, it makes for a strong team mindset in the music. All the stops, turns, and hits are incredibly tight. The group chemistry also fuels solid groove expressions—swinging, samba-esque, and soulful at different turns—which carry the music forward. The downside with the musical amity between these men is that it sometimes leaves the music wanting for more heat and/or friction. The band occasionally feels too comfortable. But is that really a problem? For most listeners, probably not. Those who dig the idea of sundry selections served up by a bright and polished trio fronted by an articulate drummer will be happy as can be when spinning Jordan Young’s Jazz Jukebox.

Dan Bilawsky – All About Jazz

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All About Jazz likes what it hears on “Bright Side” by Doug Webb

mindset2From one perspective, Doug Webb‘s Bright Side is basically twelve tracks clothed in very recognizable forms —a few varieties of soul-jazz, a couple of heartfelt ballads, a taut bossa nova, and an array of middling and up tempo straight- ahead swingers. Although the material is thoroughly enjoyable, it’s tempting to succumb to a nagging notion that its all been done countless times before, and then simply move on to a record by yet another brave soul planting his/her flag in the jazz tradition. Fortunately, what enables Bright Side to add up to something more than a competent, professionally executed jazz record, is a slew of highlights, bright moments, and outright cool stuff that populates every track.

A quintet consisting of Webb’s tenor sax, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, guitarist Ed Cherry, organist Brian Charette, and drummer Steve Fidyk (all of whom have led dates for the Posi-Tone Records label) operates like a well-oiled machine. Listening to how nicely all of the parts fit together, and the fact that you can easily discern each player’s contribution, are important facets of the disc’s appeal. For instance, Cherry’s work on the heads and his comping behind individual soloists are delivered in subtle yet decisive ways that add rich, distinctive flavors—while taking up a minimum amount of space. The same can be said about Charette, whose primary concern is holding down the band’s bottom, but, with due cause, asserts himself by means of vivid chords. Fully capable of inhabiting any role the music requires, Fidyk often jolts the band with thickset snare accents, frequently plays fluid, inconspicuous jazz time, and always executes smart, stimulating fills regardless of the type of groove.

Webb’s voice as an improviser possesses real character regardless of the kind of song he’s playing. Check out the R & B influenced “Society Al” for the way in which he gets down by himself at the onset of the track, pausing and briefly falling silent amidst a fair amount honking and shouting. Later on during his solo over the band’s uncluttered funk, Webb executes notey runs, brief, tantalizing hesitations, quick, meaningful digressions, as well as broad, weighty tones—and makes all of them sound like they belong in close proximity to one another. Magnarelli’s solos—particularly on “Steak Sauce,” “Slo Mo,” and “Lunar”— contain a fair measure of brassy power mixed with a kind of subdued, floating quality that feels emotionally vulnerable. Cherry possesses a unique, understated style, doling out notes with a soulful circumspection. His all-too-brief intro to “One For Hank” is the epitome of sparse perfection, so simple that it’s easy to take it for granted. The guitarist’s gift for making improvised lines sound both ephemeral and sturdy is also apparent throughout the gentle “Bahia,” where every single note and chord breathes easy and carries an almost imperceptible weight.

In the end, Webb and company make it simple to enjoy the music instead of indulging in critical hair splitting or fretting about stylistic proclivities and influences.

David A. Orthmann – All About Jazz

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Drummer/Composer Steve Fidyk is Buoyed by “Allied Forces” on New Posi-Tone Release

mindset2One realizes just how special Allied Forces (Posi-Tone Records) by drummer/composer/bandleader Steve Fidyk is about halfway through the Monk opener, “Evidence.”

This is one swinging quintet dealing with Monk’s myriad changes and convoluted thought processes in a shiny new irresistible way. It has that good new-car smell about it that hooks you right in. And it’s like that for the duration, partly because guitarist Shawn Purcell and tenor saxist Doug Webb make the absolute most of their opportunity here.

His own “Good Times” switches from common-time (4/4) to a waltz (3/4) mid-song and it’s in that split second of a changed time signature where, again, you’re hooked right in to Fidyk’s oh-so-hip wavelength. Marc Free’s production is such that one can hear every instrument, the percussion discussions, the high-flying solos where even under the epicenter of a tantalizing solo, some mighty rumbling is going on.

Fidyk has worked the DC area for 25 years. He studied under the legendary Joe Morello [1928-2001]. As part of numerous big-bands (check out the “Army Blues Tribute To Buddy Rich” clip below), he’s played with The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon Big Band and numerous orchestras. He’s influenced by the drum work of Billy Higgins [1936-2001] on such seminal recordings as Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” and Eddie Harris’s “Freedom Jazz Dance.” His own “Food Court Drifter” is a “blues in boogaloo style,” according to the drummer in the liner notes. It will make you move as will “Doin’ The Shake.”

Charlie Parker’s 1946 “Moose The Mooche” has Fidyk emulating another of his heroes, Mel Lewis [1929-1990] before the band gets lyrical, loose and romantic on “Portrait of Tamela,” an original for Fidyk’s wife of 25 years. Here, the suave tone of alto sax man Joseph Henson comes to the fore. “High Five” is Fidyk’s update of Paul Desmond’s 1959 “Take Five” that the Dave Brubeck Quartet made into the biggest-selling jazz single of all-time in 1961. “In My Room” is the Beach Boys ballad that Brian Wilson wrote in 1963 that’s been universally hailed as one of the greatest songs of the rock era. It all ends with a drums/organ duet with Brian Charette (whose has his own terrific new CD out, Once & Future, on the same label) for “Shiny Stockings,” inspired by the Elvin Jones/Larry Young moment on “Monk’s Dream” from Unity in 1965

Mike Greenblatt – classicalite.com

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Jazz spans Continents and Cultures on Steve Fidyk’s new release

mindset2This record company, Posi-tone Records, seems to have a group of musicians who are comrades and they make it a point to support each other by recording in concert and exchanging leaders. Just last month, I reviewed Doug Webb’s CD with most of these same players. However, on this recording, it’s the drummer who is featured as ‘leader.’ Monk’s composition, “Evidence” is a good way to begin any project. All those short, snappy, staccato notes that spell out the melody in that uniquely, creative way, are great for a drummer to be-bop along with and Fidyk takes full advantage of this opportunity. On Fidyk’s original tune, “Good Turns” he approaches the percussion support with a flurry of cymbal crashes and high energy that pulsates the song straight-ahead, rolling it forward like a freight train at top speed. Fidyk turns out to be a competent composer. “Gaffe” is another one of his originals and is a lesson in straight-ahead drum chops that uses an awesome horn section to set-up the melody. Then, flying like a bat out of cave on fire, Fidyk pushes this wonderful group of musicians to their limits. The unusual breaks and harmonics remind me of Thelonius Monk’s composer skills. Just when I thought I was going to get all straight-ahead jazz and bebop, Fidyk flicked the switch on “Doin’ the Shake” where he shows he’s equipped to play funk with the best of them. This song gives Purcell a chance to showcase excellent guitar skills and by the way, Purcell wrote this piece. On “Moose the Mooche” the excitement peaks and the listener gets to enjoy Charette’s amazing talents on the organ. I had to play this one twice and both times it left me breathless. Fidyk obviously enjoys playing up-tempo, with challenging breaks and a band that brings the best of what they have to the session. Both horn players, Henson & Webb, perform unforgettable solos throughout, strutting their improvisational talents like finely tailored Italian suits. They’re sharp, trendy and play to impress.

Fidyk comes from a musical family. His father, John Fidyk, who played tenor saxophone in several East Pennsylvania groups, proudly took his eight-year old son (Steve) to gigs and had him sit-in as a substitute drummer when only a mere child. Both parents recognized their son’s musical talents early on. Consequently, they encouraged little Steve to hone his percussive skills. He majored in Music Education at Wilkes University and played drums in several big bands. To date he has performed on over 100 recordings and has an extensive discography. This CD will be a shining star to add to his growing constellation.

Dee Dee McNeil – Musical Memoirs Blog

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The Hammond B-3 is Immortalized on Brian Charette’s “Once & Future”

mindset2The realm of the Hammond B3 organ has never been a crowded field and it has remained so even today. However, where once you might have only found records of Larry Young, Jimmy Smith and Joey DeFrancesco in online and bricks and mortar stores, two more names are creating quite the storm in the realm today: one of them is Vanessa Rodrigues, the Toronto-based Brasilian and the American, Brian Charette. The latter once displayed a rather puzzling sobriety when I once heard him, but here, on this outstanding Posi-Tone recording, Once & Future all reservations are swept aside. How memorably he responds to this traditional and contemporary repertoire; to the elusive fragrance and intricacy that can leave your imagination haunted by such a distinctive idiom. And whether you note his special lyrical warmth in his own work or wonder at his unfaltering command of the work of other writers, you will be hard-pressed to find playing of greater authenticity.

Brian Charette and the music on this disc are a wonderful match; he conveys its ferbrile qualities with such naturalness, as is vividly demonstrated from the very get-go – Fats Waller’s ‘Jitterbug Waltz’. What’s striking about this and every other track on this disc how shockingly modern he makes this music sound. Better still, there is no gratuitous virtuosity, no knee-jerk lines, no undue filigree-work; just good old-fashioned swing. So much rhythmic beauty. You might also think that you know how this organ repertoire is to be played; how Jimmy Smith needs to be remembered. Think again: This is hyper-reactive, but always at the service of the music. Never has the emotional world of the Hammond B3 sounded so relatively unadorned. But there’s so much beauty, too. ; ‘Mellow Mood’ is a miracle of colour and nuance. While the sequence of chords towards the end of ‘Dance of the Infidels’ is utterly magical.

The best thing here is probably the non-organ works, the Woody Shaw composition ‘Zoltan’ and Wes Montgomery’s ‘Road Song’, which , delivered by Brian Charette with superbly insouciant virtuosity, has moments of dazzling spectacle and certainly draws the best out of this fine instrument. But then so is the rest of the material, which cushioned in the most beautiful sound puts this wondrous album up there on the map of organ music. This is such thoughtful and thought-provoking playing not only by the organist, but also by what also turns out to be the most perfect partners in crime: Will Bernard on guitar and Steve Fidyk on drums. However, first and foremost this is Brian Charette at his best, which is quite something.

Raul da Gama – JazzdaGama