Posted on

London Jazz reviews Patrick Cornelius “Maybe Steps”…

Patrick Cornelius – Maybe Steps
(Posi-Tone PR8089. CD Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Artists change, reach new phases in their lives. Alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius used to be known for his fiercely self-disciplined practise regimes. But in his new album ‘Maybe Steps’ (Posi-Tone) he demonstrates that he has progressed well beyond the cauldron of Berklee and 4am jam sessions. He now has a wife and small daughter, and has gone with the flow of that gentler life revolving around a young family.

The CD reveals the softer contours of that world, particualrly when contrasted with the last album Fierce (Whirlwind, 2009) The new album is dedicated to his mother, wife and daughter. He is pictured cradling his alto saxophone as a parent would hold a crying baby. In most of its eleven tracks, the core vibe of the album is calm.

The mood of tranquillity gets set best in Bella’s Dreaming, which starts in the world of a Satie Gymnopedie and through its short span grows effortlessly over a faultless bass pulse from Peter Slavov. There are also French colours in the closer, Le Rendez-Vous Final, an endearing tune with echoes of Michel Legrand. I liked A Day Like Any Other, which rollicks in lilting 5/4. Shiver Song is the busiest track on the album, and stands in nice contrast to the rest.

The album gives a important role to pianist Gerald Clayton who sets a poised and balanced vibe in the hushed introduction to my pick of the tracks, Into the Stars. Soft brushwork from Kendrick Scott on drums lead to a unison duet of alto and guitar (the sensitive musicianly Miles Okazaki) which grows inexorably. I particularly enjoyed the skyward rocket let off by Patrick Cornelius at 4:13.

The two standards are contrasted. Kurt Weill’s My Ship is performed in duo with Bulgarian-born pianist Asen Doykin, as the gentlest of lullabies, with some tasty re-harmonisation to watch out for on the final statement of the theme. George Shearing’s Conception gives interesting variety through exploring a couple of trio combinations derived from the quintet.

This is a thoughtfully put together album. Producer Marc Free has put out his ideas on CD production lucidly here, and this release is a demonstration of what happens – in life and in CD production – when things find a way of going right.

Posted on

the JazzMann reviews Patrick Cornelius “Maybe Steps”…

“Maybe Steps”

(Posi-Tone Records PR8089)

I first encountered the playing of the New York based alto saxophonist and composer Patrick Cornelius back in the autumn of 2009 when he appeared at Dempsey’s in Cardiff as part of the Transatlantic Collective, an all star aggregation of American and European musicians co-led by Cornelius and bassist Michael Janisch.  A review of that show can be found elsewhere on this site together with further pieces on Cornelius’ first two solo albums “Lucid Dream” (2006) and “Fierce” (2010).

“Lucid Dream” was a wide ranging affair that concentrated on Cornelius’ composing skills and featured a number of rising stars on the US scene, among them pianist Aaron Parks, drummer Kendrick Scott and vocalist Gretchen Parlato. “Fierce” was a more focussed trio affair featuring Janisch and drummer Johnathan Blake which placed the emphasis more firmly on improvisation. Nevertheless Cornelius still brought along a set of attractive compositional themes for his colleagues to work on and the result was an album that managed to be simultaneously challenging and accessible.

“Maybe Steps” marks a return to a more composition based approach but the album is less sprawling than “Lucid Dream” and is arguably Cornelius’ best release to date. Although recorded on the East Coast the album appears on the Los Angeles based Posi-Tone label and credit must be given to producer Marc Free and his team of engineers for a pinpoint mix that allows Cornelius and his band to be heard at their best. The saxophonist is joined by a core quartet featuring pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Peter Slavov with Kendrick Scott returning to the drum stool. There are also guest appearances from guitarist Miles Okazaki and from pianist Assen Doykin who replaces Clayton on the tune “My Ship”.

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Cornelius studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston before moving to New York to complete a Master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music. The tunes on “Maybe Steps” are often inspired by events in Cornelius’ life as the artist’s notes that accompanied my copy of the album make clear. The title of the fast moving modal opener “Christmas Gift” relates to the birth of his daughter Isabella on Boxing Day 2009. The turbulence of the music replicates the energy and urgency of the race to the maternity hospital. There’s a biting clarity to the alto playing that merges with Clayton’s often percussive delivery and Scott’s dynamic drumming to present a perfect sound picture of the event that inspired it.

The title track appeared in another form on the “Fierce” album. Here Cornelius invests the melody with a wistful, nostalgic feel. The title refers to the “key moments” and “big decisions” of life and the reflective mood certainly brings out the more lyrical side of the band with thoughtful solos coming from Clayton and Cornelius subtly prompted by Scott’s always colourful drumming and Slavov’s anchoring bass pulse.

“Bella’s Dreaming” was inspired by Cornelius’ sleeping infant daughter. However this is no mere lullaby but a graphic depiction of the stages of sleep-”from peaceful slumber to fitful REM to waking up crying and screaming” as Cornelius puts it. It’s only brief but packs a remarkable degree of information into just two and a half minutes, steadily building in intensity before eventually falling away in the interest of musical symmetry.

Apart from the obvious jazz influences- Parker, Coltrane, Ornette etc.-Cornelius is also a huge fan of Peter Gabriel and included a cover of Gabriel’s tune “Don’t Give Up” on “Lucid Dream”. Here the original tune “Brother Gabriel”, inspired by a depressive episode, takes the harmonic structure of Gabriel’s “Here Comes The Flood” and re-contextualises it in the form of a moving jazz ballad with quietly intelligent solos from Cornelius and Clayton above an interactive presence of supple bass and brushed drums.

Cornelius was originally classically trained and “Shiver Song” is another example of Cornelius adapting the harmonic structure of another piece and writing his own tune around it. In this instance the source is Erik Satie’s “Piece Froides # 2” which is transformed into a fast moving boppish episode with supremely fluent solos from Cornelius and Clayton and a dynamic closing drum feature from Scott. It’s surprisingly invigorating stuff.

Although influenced by other alto players Cornelius is also in thrall to the great tenor saxophonists, particularly John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. Coltrane’s composition “Countdown” provides the inspiration for Cornelius’ own “Into The Stars”, an anthemic slow burner of a tune featuring a guest appearance from guitarist Miles Okazaki who takes the first solo. A reflection on the nature of the afterlife written following the death of Cornelius’ father the tune also features an astonishingly fluent alto solo plus a dexterous but moving bass solo from Slavov. The bassist also shines on the following “A Day Like Any Other” alongside the always inventive Clayton plus Cornelius himself on an airy tune celebrating Cornelius’ marriage.

Okazaki also appears on “Echoes Of Summer”, a wistful tune written in reminiscence of Cornelius’ youth. The composer and Clayton also make graceful solo contributions.

A couple of outside items follow, Kurt Weill’s “My Ship” and George Shearing’s “Conception”. Guest pianist Assen Doykin replaces Clayton for “My Ship”, an unashamedly sentimental ballad with a beautifully controlled performance from Cornelius in an intimate duo setting. Cornelius describes the Shearing piece as “a watershed tune for me, very challenging”. It’s an ultra tricky bebop piece that sees the group again extended to a quintet by the presence of Okazaki who contributes a slippery solo rapidly followed by equally busy solo passages from Cornelius and Clayton plus a drum feature from Scott. It’s enough to leave both the players and the listener feeling breathless.

The album concludes with Cornelius’ atmospheric “Le Rendez-vous Final” in which he attempts to re-create a kind of film-noir feel. Clayton’s deliberately paced piano solo and Clayton’s carefully considered hand drumming add much to the atmosphere established by the lonely cry of Cornelius’ horn. It’s an excellent example of mood building and like the rest of the album is a tribute to the compositional skills that saw Cornelius receive the ASCAP award for “Young Jazz Composer” for three years in a row back in the early 00’s.

“Maybe Steps” is a collection of sophisticated and varied compositions superbly played by a highly competent group of musicians. It’s a work that speaks of Cornelius’ increasing maturity as both a writer and musician, a player who is developing a unique voice on his instrument. His supporting musicians are uniformly excellent and the production captures every nuance of the music. Like its predecessors “Maybe Steps” is eminently accessible but still offers much to engage the serious listener. It’s a worthy addition to an already impressive catalogue of work.


Posted on

Dan Bilawsky reviews Patrick Cornelius “Maybe Steps”…

Fierce (Whirlwind, 2010) found alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius in fine, feisty form, as he worked through his own winning compositions in a piano-less trio with occasional guests format, but he’s following a more reflective line of musical thought with a stellar quintet onMaybe Steps. This album is a mostly-original set of music with pensive pieces aplenty, and provides a better-rounded picture of the leader’s talents. Cornelius may have basically been in battle mode for Fierce, but he disarms on this one.

While Cornelius and company are willing to kick things into high gear with up-tempo swing (George Shearing’s “Conception”) and rhythmically vibrant, drum-driven music that showcases superb soloists within this band (“Shiver Song”), they do it sparingly. On the majority of this music, he looks back over his life’s experiences and muses long and hard on the memories at hand. A less-is-more lullaby (“Bella’s Dreaming”) with a Billy Strayhorn sensibility is an aural depiction of a daughter’s nap time rituals, while the title track—which also appeared on Fierce—is a trip through the major changes and turning points in Cornelius’ life, and a dour yet hopeful “Brother Gabriel” touches on depression and takes musical inspiration from Peter Gabriel’s “Here Comes The Flood.”

The mood of Maybe Steps is markedly different from that of its predecessor, with Cornelius’ personnel changes reflecting that difference. None of his friends from Fierce return, but he taps plenty of rising star peers. Pianist Gerald Clayton is fantastic throughout this set, guitarist Miles Okazaki steals the show on “Into The Stars,” bassist Peter Slavov anchors the band and delivers some skillful soloing of his own (“A Day Like Any Other”), and drummer Kendrick Scott, who appeared on the saxophonist’s self-produced debut, is never short on ideas, whether they be bold or benign. While these five musicians flesh out Cornelius’ ideas together throughout the album, things become a bit more intimate when pianist Assen Doykin makes his lone appearance on a fragile and ever-so-tender take on Kurt Weill’s “My Ship.”

Maybe Steps may not match Cornelius’ prior album when measured by intensity, but it surpasses it in all other categories. A more mature outing with greater emotional depth, it continues to reveal more treasures and pleasures with repeated listening.

Posted on

Peter Hum reviews “more-altos-you-ought-to-know-about”…

Over at the office of Posi-Tone, the Los Angeles-based jazz label, 2011 is jokingly referred to as the “year of the altos.” Below are reviews of three discs that have helped define the year for the label.  Not surprisingly, their similarities are not limited to the horn played by the leaders involved. As per the Posi-tone mandate, the CDs brim with modern mainstream jazz zeitgeist built on a post-bop foundation. The discs also adhere to some of Posi-Tone producer Marc Free’s recommendations, offering a bounty of tunes under six minutes — all the better to be played on the radio — as well as a couple of covers of standards meant to open a window on the leader’s inspirations and influences.

However, of the three discs below, I have a clear favourite, and I’ll start by discussing it.

Maybe Steps (Posi-Tone)
Patrick Cornelius

This disc clearly strikes me as the most accomplished disc of Posi-Tone’s batch. OnMaybe Steps, alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius demonstrates striking poise, assurance and eloquence in his playing, and  his compositions are well-crafted lyrical statements, not simply content to be blowing vehicles.

The disc, the saxophonist’s third under his own name, also rises to the top because Cornelius has called upon some of the jazz world’s most exceptional young players for the recording. Pianist Gerald Clayton (who sounds impeccable throughout), guitarist Miles Okazaki, bassist Peter Slavov (heard in Ottawa in 2010 playing with Joe Lovano’s UsFive group), and drummer Kendrick Scott really know how to make the music breathe and come alive as they provide supple, responsive, nuanced accompaniment. Even in the confines of a five-minute tune, Cornelius, Clayton and Okazaki can build compelling solo statements that grow and flourish. And of course, Cornelius and his bandmates can go big when the music calls for obvious shows of strength.

The discs get right down to business with the rollicking Christmas Gift, which has a nice modern edge to it as it alternates stretches of simmering and boiling. The track gives a clear indication of the disc’s appealing mix of urbane sophistication and power. Shiver Song, heard in the excerpt below is a samba-style song with plenty of hustle and forward motion. Short as it is, the clip also gives you a sense of the tartness and focus of Cornelius’ playing.

The disc hits its cool notes well too. Take for example, the loping title track that re-affirms the timeless pleasure of a two-feel groove gearing up to 4/4 swinging, the pretty Brother Gabriel (which echoes Peter Gabriel’s Here Comes The Flood), Into the Stars, and the jaunty, lilting 5/4 tune A Day Like Any Other. After a fine solo introduction by Clayton, Into the Stars is a straight-eighths tune, both tender and tense, that showcases Okazaki’s flowing melodies.

Bella’s Dreaming, inspired by Cornelius’ young daughter, is a short but meaningful exercise in crescendo. With the bolero-style Le Rendez-vous Final, the disc finds a strong, plaintive conclusion.

Posi-tone producer Marc Free likes a few standard or two thrown in on his CD, and Cornelius has obliged with some good ones. My Ship, a duet with pianist Asssen Doykin, is both personal and true to the song — not an easy balance to strike for younger jazz players. Conception is a fast romp that, like the title track, underscores the continued relevance of swinging.

For the next few days, Maybe Steps is streaming here, courtesy of Montreal’s Nextbopping jazz advocates. See if you like it as much as I do.

New Directions (Posi-Tone)
Travis Sullivan

This quartet disc is the first small-ensemble outing in more than 10 years  from alto saxophonist Sullivan, who is better known as the leader of his Bjork-covering big band, Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra. Front and centre on this CD of eight originals and two covers, Sullivan seems to take at least a few cues from Kenny Garrett in terms of his at times astringent sound and the kind of writing and modal soloing that he’s going for.

Sullivan’s joined by pianist Mike Eckroth (who’s been doing some big league playing with John Scofield), bassist Marco Panascia and drummer Brian Fishler for a varied program than generally leans toward the straight-eighths, groovy side of things (the funky, riffy 7/4 tune Hidden Agenda, the 5/4 piece Magic Monday, the slinky tuneGeorgie, which opens up considerably on the version below).

Tune-wise, the best of this batch is Jamia’s Dance, the CD’s well-chosen opener, which is poppy but substantial.

On the less funky side of the ledger, Tuneology is a fast minor-key swinger, Leap of Faith is a nice 3/4 tune, and Autumn in NH makes a good bit of music out of very little — after a pretty piano intro by Eckroth and a short theme,  free, soundscape-oriented playing ensues.

The standard Spring Is Here receives a very straight reading. It has the right vibe to it, but Sullivan’s playing is more stiff and brusque than I would like — he sounds considerably more free and expansive during his cadenza than when he’s playing the tune proper.

With his cover of Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Sullivan lets loose his inner ’80s child. He sets the Tears for Fears tune to a jazzier, waltzing groove, and reharmonizes it a bit. It’s OK, but this ’80s child likes it best when Fishler brings back the tune’s original groove during the tune’s coda.

Sullivan’s disc is a solid one, with nicely proportioned post-bop performances and enough good writing and accomplished playing to make it distinctive.

Steppin’ Up (Posi-Tone)
Kenny Shanker

On his hard-hitting debut CD, alto saxophonist Kenny Shanker shows off a big, ripe  sound that brings Kenny Garrett and Jan Garbarek to my mind at times. That sound is consistently put into service during persuasive, committed solos — Shanker has a lot of bop under his fingers (and some Garrett-style lines too) and has no problems revving up to top gear when he improvises.

As a composer, Shanker creates direct, uncomplicated meat-and-potatoes fare — all the better for him to unleash strong stuff when he solos. A good chunk of Steppin’ Upis  pop- and gospel-influenced (the down-home opener Winter RainHome Sweet Home, the pretty, quarter-notey ballad Sarah). Quirk is a groovy, Garrett-style tune. The rocking Rhapsody strives to be grand and, well, rhapsodic — I don’t find it says that much to me, however.

On the swinging side of things, Fifth & Berry is a brisk, mostly minor blues, with guitarist Lage Lund contributing the first of three guest appearances. The guitarist also enlivens E.J., a charging tune, which features a swaggering half-time solo by pianist Art Hirahara before the music becomes more crowded. Lund returns onSaints, another multi-groove tune, and his playing on that track might be one of the disc’s highlights — the beginning of the solo feels more patient than much of Steppin’ Up.  Prowl is a jazz waltz that could have been better shaped, although Hirahara delivers a strong solo.

The disc closes with a rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s Somewhere. Shanker sings the melody directly through his horn, and pianist Mike Eckroth expresses himself well.

Steppin’ Up clearly conveys the heat and power of Shanker’s music. Indeed, it feels to me like the recording, mixing and mastering meant to stress the punchiness of the proceedings — at the expense, I think, of more varied, nuanced expression. For comparison’s sake, drummer Bryan Fishler comes off as more rigid and brash than he does on Sullivan’s disc. Probably that’s more a function of the recording, rather than what Fishler played.

Posted on

Bruce Lindsay reviews Patrick Cornelius “Maybe Steps”…

Maybe Steps is alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius’ third album, and his first for the excellent Los Angeles-based Posi-Tone Records. He’s joined by the talented rhythm section of pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Peter Slavov and drummer Kendrick Scott in a graceful and melodically strong performance, mostly of his original tunes.

Cornelius’ compositions swing gracefully, with seemingly effortless ease on the part of all of the musicians. “Maybe Steps” typifies this relaxed groove; the tune also appears on Cornelius’ second album, Fierce (Whirlwind Recordings, 2010) where it was characterized by a brighter sound and Michael Janisch’s tough bass line. This new version is more effective, the subtle playing of Clayton, Slavov and Scott providing a perfectly judged backdrop to Cornelius’ warm alto. On “Echoes of Summer,” Cornelius is joined by guitarist Miles Okazaki, the two instruments complementing each other sonically and giving added depth to its melody.

Ispired by Cornelius’ baby daughter, “Bella’s Dreaming” is a lovely ballad that displays the saxophonist’s masterful control of his instrument. “Brother Gabriel,” which Cornelius first recorded with the Transatlantic Collective on Travelling Song (Woodville Records, 2009), gets its inspiration from singer/songwriter Peter Gabriel’s reflective and downbeat “Here Comes The Flood.” Once again, Cornelius produces a beautifully controlled performance, this time on a tune that is a touch more intense than most in this collection. “Le Rendez-vous Final” swings gently, thanks especially to Scott’s drumming, and yet it carries an air of sadness that is somehow at odds with this rhythm.

Pianist Asen Doykin duets with Cornelius on an understated and delicate performance of Kurt Weill’s melancholic “My Ship”; slow, measured and emotive, it’s a superb interpretation of this classic song. Sir George Shearing’s “Conception” is more upbeat, driven by Scott’s percussion and given added depth, once again, by Okazaki’s deft guitar work.

Cornelius’ star continues to rise. Maybe Steps is his strongest outing yet, demonstrating his all-too-rare ability to combine the writing of memorable and accessible tunes with a performance that engages with, and enhances, their beauty and emotional connection.

Track Listing: Christmas Gift; Maybe Steps; Bella’s Dreaming; Brother Gabriel; Shiver Song; Into The Stars; A Day Like Any Other; Echoes Of Summer; My Ship; Conception; Le Rendez-vous Final.

Personnel: Patrick Cornelius: alto saxophone; Gerald Clayton: piano; Peter Slavov: bass; Kendrick Scott: drums; Miles Okazaki: guitar (6, 8, 10); Asen Doykin: piano (9).

Posted on

Lucid Culture on Patrick Cornelius “Maybe Steps”…

Nothing Uncertain About Patrick Cornelius’ Maybe Steps

The big deal about this album is that Gerald Clayton’s on it. Getting one of the most innovative pianists in jazz right now confers instant cred on alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius’ latest effort, Maybe Steps. And it doesn’t disappoint – as melodic jazz goes, it’s a consistently surprising, often understatedly intense ride. There’s a lot of depth here, diverse and sometimes divergent ideas and emotional tones within a single piece along with the occasional offhand classic riff reference. What makes this such a hard album to shut off is that the band never hits anything exactly head-on: they keep you waiting and keep you guessing. Cornelius plays with a misty, opaque tone alongside Clayton with Peter Slavov on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums, with Miles Okazaki on guitar and Assen Doykin on piano on one track.

The opening track is a triplet tune with subtle modal shifts, rises and falls. As he does later on here, a lot, Cornelius goes bright against a somewhat tense background but then follows Clayton into moodier and then memorably choppier territory. The title track – a Trane pun – swings til it hits an eerie bump in the road that Clayton pulls out of with bluesy allusions. But when Cornelius hits it, he lets the darkness settle for awhile before bringing the lights up again. Bella’s Dreaming, a brief nocturne, is a clever remake of One for My Baby. Brother Gabriel, with its attractive, syncopated pulse, serves as a showcase for a suspensefully spacious solo from Clayton, working his way out of the murk only to hint that he’d like to go back there.

They pick up the pace with the briskly catchy, biting Shiver Song, Cornelius deadpan and blithe over the melody’s edgy acidity, Clayton spiraling nimbly after him. Into the Stars, a ballad, contrasts a blippy Okazaki excursion with boomy, tensely tiptoeing bass. The strongest songs out of the whole bunch are the casually bittersweet A Day Like No Other and the Jackie McLean-ish Echoes of Summer, Cornelius keeping his triumphant solo casual and close to the vest. The album winds up with a purist, glimmering piano-sax version of Kurt Weill’s My Ship, an almost frantically swinging cover of George Shearing’s Conception and the potent concluding cut, a brooding tango, Cornelius evading resolution (and that pink slip, DFA notice or wave of the girl’s hand) at every turn. Count this as one of the most consistently interesting and tuneful jazz releases of 2011, out now on Posi-Tone. Cornelius is at the Bar Next Door in a trio with Linda Oh and Paul Wiltgen on Oct 6 and then at the Jazz Gallery on Nov 16 at 9 with this band playing the cd release show.

Posted on

The Jazz Word’s John Barron on Patrick Cornelius “Maybe Steps”…

“Christmas Gift,” the opening track from alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius’ disc Maybe Steps, bursts forth with voluminous strength, only to be quickly subdued by a deliberate dynamic shift. A more gradual, upward surge in intensity is heard on the brief, soulful swaying of “Bella’s Dreaming.” Perhaps not a groundbreaking approach to modern jazz composition, but the idea of using dynamics to enhance the music is a trait sadly missing from the wealth of mainstream disc’s being released. It is this type of attention to detail in presentation that helps Cornelius create a unique ensemble sound, placing his writing on equal footing with soloing.

Cornelius’ playing can be cutting and bold in one moment and soft and wistful in another. Capable of drawing out lengthy, winding lines, shaped with sense and purpose, he demonstrates schooled technique and street-savvy phrasing. Pianist Gerald Clayton solos wonderfully and accompanies with a sensitivity and grace beyond his years, holding things tightly in place with bassist Peter Slavov and drummer Kendrick Scott. Guitarist Miles Okazaki joins the quartet for a few tunes with blistering lyricism, especially on the breezy Latin groove of “Into the Stars” and a cover of George Shearing’s “Conception.”

Posted on

Richard Kamins reviews Patrick Cornelius “Maybe Steps” for StepTempest…

To paraphrase the poet Robert Burns, “the best laid schemes of reviewers and home owners can be washed away by the eye of a storm.”  I was hoping to get a slew of reviews posted before Hurricane Irene arrived but, alas, that did not occur.  So, in the interest of time (yes, school is back in session and papers are waiting to be read), here’s a brief look at several excellent new recordings.

I have received a slew of new releases that have impressed me with their emphasis on melody. As opposed to pure “blowing sessions”, the recordings in this review start with well-thought out melodic ideas and build from there.

Let me begin with the splendid new release by alto saxophonist and composer Patrick Cornelius. Hot on the heels of 2010’s trio date “Fierce”, “Maybe Steps” (Posi-Tone Records) expands the basic instrumentation of sax-bass-drums to include piano (the guitar work of Miles Okazaki is heard on several cuts) for a program of 9 originals and 2 standards (K Weill’s “My Ship” and G Shearing’s “Conception“.)  Check out the rhythm section which consists of drummer Kendrick Scott, pianist Gerald Clayton (on all tracks but one, a handsome duo take of the Weill tune features pianist Assen Doykin) and bassistPeter Slavov. Much of the music is the direct result of the birth of Cornelius’s daughter “Isabella” and his fatherly fascination in her.  The music has a searching quality, a sense of adventure and wonder that is often the purview of very young children. No bumps and bruises along the way, just a sweet collections of tunes.  The title track moves easily atop the fine walking bass line and sparse yet effective cymbal work.  Clayton’s generous chords push Cornelius into a strong, singing, solo. That is followed by the Satie-esque “Bella’s Dreaming“, with the leader playing these sweet, bluesy, smears that pushes the piece into George Gershwin.  It’s a wee bit short at just over 2 and 1/2 minutes but none of the tracks are really long.  Scott dances “Shiver Song” in, laying down an irresistible beat that gives all involved just the right push (and a great drum-alto exchange near the close of the piece.)

Nary a sour note on the disc, “Maybe Steps” is delightful music from start to finish. Give it a lot of listens. Release date is 9/20/11.  For more information, go to

Posted on

Mark F. Turner reviews Patrick Cornelius “Maybe Steps”…

With the talent to convey thought-provoking stories through his music, Patrick Cornelius pens a fresh chapter of personal and emotive composition in Maybe Steps, his third release as a leader. The recording follows the alto saxophonist’s well-received debut, Lucid Dreams (Self Produced, 2006) and the more groove-oriented Fierce(Whirlwind Recordings Ltd., 2010), both filled with robust writing, tight musicianship, and distinction.

The mode here is modern mainstream, but what gives the recording its verve is Cornelius’ intricate use of straightforward melodies, evocative themes, and gripping contributions from his band mates. His attributes are coupled with a piercing tone, sharp technique, and a leader’s acumen—that ability to assemble and extract the best from new heavies such as pianist Gerald Clayton and drummer Kendrick Scott.

Cornelius’ imagery is vivid. It comes to life in “Christmas Gift,” with Clayton’s effervescent, roiling piano chords and Scott’s turbulent sticks, or the enchanting lyricism of “Bella’s Dreaming,” inspired by the saxophonist’s observation of his three month-old daughter’s sleep habits. Yet, in contrast, the band turns up the intensity on “Brother Gabriel” with a Latin-tinged progression that highlights Scott’s amazing onslaught.

The light also shines on the critically acclaimed Clayton, who plays with finesse on the title track (a fresh version first heard on the aforementioned Fierce ), providing just the right touch to Cornelius’ melodic lines; adds splashes of color to the free styling “A Day Like Any Other”; and swings fiercely on Cornelius’s unique take of pianist George Shearing’s “Conception,” which simply smokes, and features the incisive playing of another bright newcomer, guitarist Miles Okazaki.

The set closes with “Le Rendez-vous Final,” a beautiful rubato-flavored piece that exudes a classic romanticism. It is another fine showcase of the multifaceted Cornelius, an emerging altoist who warrants a closer look.