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Tom Tallitsch’s “Wheelhouse” demonstrates the continued vitality of the hard bop form

Wheelhouse (PR8185)

Wheelhouse is Tom Tallitsch’s fifth outing for Posi-Tone Records (eight overall) from one of the most consistently solid performers in that label’s stable of quality jazz performers. Though this 2018 release again sees the tenor sax master heading up a roster who have led their own notable dates for the label, but this one pairs Tallitsch with a trumpeter for the first time on a Tallitsch record, in the form of the talented Josh Lawrence. Also on board is Jon Davis (piano), Peter Brendler (bass) and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums).

Combine the proven quintet format with Tallitsch’s penchant for penning memorable post-bop and hard bop tunes in the classic style, and Wheelhouse is akin to Blue Note pulling out a vintage mid-sixties session from the vault performed by label heroes Paul Chambers, Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock and the like. Even the spotless, analog-warm production by Marc Free evokes Rudy Van Gelder.

Though Tallitsch has been known to throw out an offbeat cover or two in the past, he sticks to all-originals this go around. “Wheelhouse” features a tale of two rhythm patterns, but when it settles into a swing mindset, Tallitsch displays that ingratiating, soulful tenor in full . Not one to leave a wealth of talent idle, Davis, Lawrence and Sperrazza get their own savory features as well. “Schlep City” is a blues-based shuffle where Lawrence’s trumpet spotlight more than recalls Lee Morgan. Sperrazza’s dynamic rhythm-ing drives “Red Eye” along as Tallitsch and Lawrence combine for funky lead lines prior to them taking turns on thoughtful solos.

Brendler’s bass pattern kicks off the slow swinging “Paulus Hook,” which has a melody imbued with melancholy nicely captured by Tallitsch’s aside. “One For Jonny” is a tender ballad, a choice opportunity for Lawrence to show off a lavish affecting tone. He later fills in some harmony behind the leader’s own heartfelt solo. To top it all off, the swaying soul-jazz of “Gas Station Hot Dog” hearkens back to the RnB-soaked numbers once championed by Morgan and Lou Donaldson, and Davis’ crisp lines here as they are everywhere else are delightful throwback to when jazz piano was played with a lot of soulfulness.

Tom Tallitsch’s Wheelhouse is all in a day’s work for this underappreciated tenor saxman, who once again demonstrates the continued vitality of the hard bop form. If that kind of jazz is in your wheelhouse, then this album is sure to be as well.

Something Else reviews

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Great first review for the new release “Straight Forward” by New Faces

The independent label Posi Tone Records has the mantra “…to provide the highest quality recordings of the most relevant musicians on today’s jazz scene.” Co-owners producer Marc Free and engineer Nick O’Toole have been doing just that since 1994.  It seems 2018 will be no different. Free assembled his New Faces group from musician members of the Posi Tone stable of artists and produced a very satisfying new album aptly titled Straight Forward which will be released on January 12, 2018.

It’s a group of like-minded, young musicians who, based on this successful outing, have a long future together if they want it.  The group includes Josh Lawrence’s trumpet, Roxy Coss’ saxophone, the gossamer touch of vibraphonist Behn Gillece and the young pianist Theo Hill with the rhythm section of Peter Brendler on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums.

The group offers a tight, well executed set of music; compositions  that were culled partially from the Posi-Tone archives, but also includes two original compositions by trumpeter Lawrence and three by vibraphonist Gillece. There is one Herbie Hancock composition, “King Cobra,” that is particularly representative of the 50’s and 60’s Blue Note era, a recording model that Posi-Tone has clearly fashioned their own musical aspirations after.

The set starts out with a Jon Davis swinger titled “Happy Juice.”  Right away you perceive a chorus of instruments-trumpet, piano, saxophone and vibes-that have acquired the ability to meld their individual voices into a complimentary, unified sound that delights the ears. Trumpeter Lawrence has a clear easy flow to his playing. Coss’s saxophone tone is mellow and lustrous.Pianist Hill is rock steady throughout, but it is Gillece’s tubular vibe sound that subtly dominates here, driving the tune forward as the rhythm section of Brendler and Sperrazza provide the rhythmic base.

What I like about this group is that they relish ensemble playing over lengthy individual solos. The haunting “Delilah Was A libra” is opened with a penetrating lead in by Gillece. Hill and Coss offer two short but poignant solos before Lawrence enters with a brief but potent trumpet statement. It’s the group speak that you come away admiring here.

On Brian Charette’s jaunty “West Village” the front line states the melody in unison, before Josh Lawrence’s muted trumpet solo raises the heat. A brief but imaginative solo by Coss leads to Gillece’s darting vibes play. The notes seem to take flight off his mallets like wood nymphs alit in a forest. This song was originally played by an organ trio, but here the group utilizes the additional instrumentation to great effect as Brendler and Sperrazza drive the beat.

The Herbie Hancock classic, “King Cobra,” is played by a tight front line stating the serpentine melody in unison, with a sound reminiscent of the old Blue Note magic. Pianist Hill’s repeated chord lines sets the time throughout.  Saxophonist Coss’s tone is buttery soft, uncluttered and warm and Hill plays nicely off her changes of direction.  Lawrence’s trumpet solo is well paced and understated. The music captures much of the electricity of the original recording.

The album continues with bright “I’m Here” which offers solos by Lawrence, Hill, Coss and Gillece respectively. The first of Gilcee’s three compositions on the album is up next with “Down the Pike,” a medium tempo swinger that offers some clever changes. Josh Lawrence’s’ driving blues, “Hush Puppy” keeps the proceedings moving with some Tyner-esque-like playing by Hill and a pulsing beat by Brendler. Lawrence’s muted trumpet, Coss’s mellow horn and Gillece’s vibes all add to the mix as Sperazza dazzles on traps.

Perhaps my favorite cut on the album is “Vortex,” a circular composition that features some of Coss’s most evocatively sensitive playing and spurs the vibraphonist/composer Gillece into some of his most exploratory adventures on the album. This one is bound to become a classic.

The music continues with trumpeter Lawrence offering a Latin inspired composition titled “Fredreico.” Sperrazza and Brendler hold down the Latin groove admirably.

“Follow Suit” is another Gillece composition that was clearly influenced by those sterling Blue Note years. The vibraphonist double-times his playing here as Brendler and Sperrazza maintain the torrid pace.  Lawrence and Coss both offer fiery solos and Hill’s piano solo is frenetic.

The set closes with the easy, feel-good gospel-influenced Jared Gold composition “Preaching.”

Not sure if New Faces was intended as a one off to start the year, but with such an auspicious first album, perhaps New Faces is destined to become a regular Posi Tone featured group.

Ralph A. Miriello – Huffington Post

 

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All About Jazz gives “Message In Motion” 5 stars

brendlerMessage In Motion is a recording that can be gainfully approached from a number of angles. You can choose to play it in a single sitting from start to finish, taking in an array of moods evoked by bassist Peter Brendler’s seven compositions and a band worthy of his exemplary skills as a writer. (The record also includes selections penned by Duke Ellington, Elliott Smith, and Alice Coltrane.)

Equally satisfying is the practice of detaching the compositions from the improvisations that follow, enabling one to focus on the care Brendler takes in crafting melodies, appreciate the shapes and contours of individual songs, as well as his shrewd employment of different configurations of a five-piece group. It’s easy to become fixated on each of his works, and after a while, despite their differences, they loosely cohere into some sort of aggregate. “Splayed” opens in a wistful manner that includes brief silences, and quickly turns harder and somewhat sinister. “Stunts and Twists” is a haunting, quasi-ballad that evolves in a long, restless sweep. Bearing the influence of the early work of Ornette Coleman, the densely swinging “Very Light and Very Sweet” seems to feed on itself. The deliberately paced “Gimmie The Numbers” makes bedfellows of elements ranging from gospel to gutbucket. Fueled by a firestorm of distorted guitar noise and punchy, drum dominated time, “Lucky In Astoria” sounds like a waltz on steroids.

Another rewarding course is concentrating on the work of each of the primary soloists—tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, trumpeter Peter Evans, guitarist Ben Monder, and Brendler—and making note of the ways in which the bassist and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza support and interact with them. As his tone declares a slightly sour disposition, Perry’s “Didn’t Do Nothing” solo sounds as if he’s pushing away some sort of obstacle without using a whole lot of force or emphasis, as if the effort is distasteful or futile to begin with. In general, his improvising is slippery, evasive, and—miraculously—right down the center of the music’s core. Throughout Evans’ wildly ambitious improvisations on “Splayed,” “Stunts and Twists,” and “Didn’t Do Nothing,” each note seems to be gobbled up by the next one, offering the impression of something being torn down and reassembled in a different form, all in one maniacal, continuous motion. Taking his cue from the song’s melody, during “Gimmie The Numbers,” Monder begins in a simple, direct manner, and eventually turns prickly, making darting leaps across the beat. During the incendiary “Lucky In Astoria,” his overwrought guitar and Perry’s tenor extemporize at the same time, as if they’re both trying to force their way out of a confined space by vastly different means.

It’s entirely possible that there’s no end to the discoveries and pleasures engendered by
Message In Motion. The music always encourages yet another listen. Highly recommended.

DAVID A. ORTHMANN  –  All About Jazz

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Classicalite says Peter Brendler’s “Message In Motion” lives up to it’s name

brendlerAnother winner from the left coast’s Posi-Tone: consider it a Message In Motion by Peter Brendler where six of the tracks feature no chords whatsoever as it’s Brendler’s bass augmented by Rich Perry’s tenor sax, the trumpet of Peter Evans and Vinnie Sperazza with the type of kinetic drumming that continually moves the music forward.

Brendler wrote eight of 10 and his compositional style gives everyone ample room to move. His two covers are “Ptah The El Daoud” by pianist Alice Coltrane [1937-2007] who was even more way out half the time than her icon husband John, and a real oddball pick of “Easy Way Out” by singer/songwriter Elliott Smith [1969-2003].

Four tracks have guest guitarist Ben Monder to add a few chords and a few runs of his own. Monder’s a monster. His Amorphae last year featured tracks with legendary drummer Paul Motian [1931-2011] from a scrapped 2010 duet project.

The sound is straight-ahead, exciting and constantly kinetic: it moves, man! Like the title implies, motion is inherent in these grooves. Continuing with the premise of his 2014 sophomore effort, Outside The Line, it expands the territory Brendler first sought out on his debut 2013 duo CD (The Angle Below, on Steeplechase Records) with guitarist John Abercrombie. Originally from Baltimore, Brendler graduated from Berklee in Boston before moving to New York City where he earned his Masters at the Manhattan School of Music.

Produced by Marc Free, engineered by Nick O’Toole, recorded at Acoustic in Brooklyn, mixed’n’mastered at Woodland Studio in Lake Oswego, Oregon, highlights include “Very Light And Very Sweet” (which lives up to its name, and you can hear sax man Perry’s transcribed solo below), opener “Splayed,” “Stunts And Twists” (syncopated and surprising) and, my favorite, the closing “Stop Gap.”

Mike Greenblatt – Classicalite.com

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Midwest Record tells us about the well conceived “Message In Motion” by Peter Brendler

brendlerHaving made his bones with his John Abercrombie duet, the bass ace pioneers a new jazz genre, free jazz for white people. Not as madly careening as classic civil rights jazz, Brendler’s vision has it own moves and makes it own rules madly teasing the ears of honkies not all that in love with straight lines. Well conceived wild stuff for those looking for a wild ride.

CHRIS SPECTOR – MIDWEST RECORD

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Dusted Magazine tells us about the blend of instrumental prowess on “Message In Motion”

brendlerOn his excellent debut outing for Positone, bassist Peter Brendler got arguably upstaged by the intrigue inherent to the frontline pairing of tenorist Rich Perry and trumpeter Peter Evans. With Message in Motion much of the novelty has worn off, replaced by a full embrace of the confidence that comes from two players who share an encyclopedic command of their respective instruments. Vinnie Sperrazza returns on drums and Brendler also taps guitarist Ben Monder to bolster the band to quintet size. Brendler leads with his usual blend of instrumental prowess and careful consideration toward crafting collaborative surroundings that stress his colleagues’ strengths.

Eight originals add to a pair of covers for a solid near-hour of music starting with the hardbop-reminiscent “Splayed”, a medium-tempo head-solos piece that allows Evans to uncork his horn. Perry’s ensuing solo is more conventional by comparison, but stocked with register-ranging stream of phrases. Brendler holds the center with a plumply striding line. The ballad “Angelica” finds him in comparable functional form, plucking out an anchor around which the horns revolve before expanding into a resonant conversation with Sperrazza around a Latin rhythm. Monder debuts on the lushly configured “Stunts and Twists”, glassy amplification giving his tasteful chording added reflective presence.

The lengthiest cut of the date, Alice Coltrane’s “Ptah The El Daoud” gives Sperrazza a shot to shine on the martial motif that underscores the tune and Evans engages in an expressive Doppler growl. Perry’s rubato extemporization cuts to the core of the mood-saturated theme with Brendler once again laying down a bold bass pulse as the tenorist heats up and treads close to the rarefied territory of the composer’s spouse. Evans worries a phrase to the point of near-overkill before exploding it into a torrent of textured sound. Elliott Smith’s “Easy Way Out” places the spotlight sharply on the leader and Sperrazza with Monder joining them mid-piece and further solidifying the melodic focus with a lattice of reverb-dipped single notes and glissandi.

Brendler’s compositions carry the album to conclusion starting with aptly-named “Very Light and Very Sweet”, an up-tempo lark that augments its brisk, effervescent structure with some weighty improvisation from Evans and Perry followed by rollicking exchanges with Sperrazza. “Gimmie the Numbers” brings a Mingus-style groove predicated by its title and propelled by Brendler’s room-filling strolling line. Evans and Perry play the blues in their inimitable idiolects as Monder caulks the corners with luminous chords. “Lucky in Astoria” and “Stop Gap” arguably save the most unexpected Brendler for last with the first adopting rock inflections through Monder’s distortion-laced riffing and second capping the session with sortie through open-ended funk. Converting this eclectic crew to a working band seems a foregone conclusion.

Derek Taylor – Dusted Magazine

 

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Chicago Reader tells us about Peter Brendler’s mainstream postbop “Message In Motion”

brendlerNew York bassist Peter Brendler has been a rising figure in the city’s jazz mainstream for the past decade or so. He recently released Message in Motion (Posi-Tone), his second album as a leader (not counting a 2013 duo recording with guitarist John Abercrombie, The Angle Below). It’s another knockout, working solidly within postbop orthodoxy while pushing against its strictures, thanks largely to the strong players with whom the bassist surrounds himself— and none contribute more powerfully than trumpeter Peter Evans. In fact, it’s Evans who pretty much transforms the album from a strong postbop session into a recording that’s stunned me—when I listen to it, I alternate between laughing at the trumpeter’s nonchalant audacity and falling speechless at his ability to work inside the tradition, leaving it a sere husk in his wake.

Evans is an improviser of great technical facility and wild imagination, and during his long stint in the wonderfully arch Mostly Other People Do the Killing he showed off his postbop chops with a gleeful irreverence, alternately playing changes with fiery excitement and turning over the apple cart with full-blown experimentation. He left that band a couple of years ago, and for those hungering to hear him in a more conventional jazz setting, Brendler has been providing it.

As he did on his 2014 album Outside the Line, Brendler works with Evans, saxophonist Rich Perry, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza on the new record; on a handful of tracks the group expands to a quintet with the addition of guitarist Ben Monder. In most cases the leader’s compositions are sturdy vehicles for blowing, as you can hear for yourself on album opener “Splayed,” where a delicate unison melody flips into a driving shuffle groove, allowing both horn men to chew up the scenery, both individually and in thrilling multilinear improvising.
“Angelica” is another brisk number, with an appealingly tart melody inspired by Duke Ellington’s small-group work; Brendler cites guitarist John Abercrombie as an inspiration for the ballad “Stunts and Twists,” which gets a lush atmosphere from Monder’s moody comping. On album closer “Stop Gap” Brendler pays homage to the denatured boogaloo themes popular on Blue Note during the late 50s and early 60s, a genre exercise not terribly far removed from what Evans did in MOPDTK (though Brendler’s harmonies and the horn timbre sound thoroughly contemporary).

Message in Motion includes two covers: the bassist gets the spotlight on the opening of a trio version of Elliott Smith’s “Easy Way Out,” where an extended, crystalline guitar solo temporarily but dramatically changes the complexion of the album toward cool, lyrical introspection. Sperrazza deploys a tough march rhythm to kick off the group’s take on Alice Coltrane’s “Ptah the El Daoud,” followed by a Perry solo that channels Coltrane’s husband John, but it’s Evans who steals the show, crowning Brendler’s walking groove with a dazzling adaptation of his own extended techniques—repeating fast-moving phrases till they turn dizzying, playing lines that run up and down the range of his horn with frightening precision and clarity, scalding his exquisite tone with striated dissonance, bringing a nasality that sounds downright saxophonic to other lines, and closing it out with a hilarious guttural blubber and a high-pitched whinny.

Peter Margasak – Chicago Reader

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Culture Jazz (France) reveals the Power of “Message In Motion”

mindset2Jazz full frame. It is right on target with this strong team of aggressive and inventive musicians able to revive the colors of the modern swing. After Outside The Line (Posi-Tone, 2014), bassist Peter Brendler maintains the same quartet without harmonic instrument to propose a music with clear lines: two soloists and a rhythm section. Classic you might say, of course, but with a few blowers duo Peter Evans, stunning trumpet and Rich Perry on tenor saxophone we enjoy meeting here to recall happy memories of the discographic label Steeplechase and especially with the big- band of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis once. With the valuable and effective support of drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, Peter Brendler blackmails his bass (intro … Easy Way Out) on flexible lines of music that defends a certain idea of brevity and simplicity in both original themes in loans to Duke Ellington and John Coltrane (Angelica), Alice Coltrane (Ptah the El Daoud) or Elliott Smith (Easy Way Out). And then there is the presence in almost alien in this context invited the guitarist Ben Monder that has shaken the quartet scheduling and planning the color harmonies of his always creative guitar playing. Recorded in a day so almost in live conditions in the studio as is usual with Posi-Tone, this disc gives a clear and accurate picture of what may be the jazz today: rooted in tradition but played with the freshness of the discoverers of the first days thanks to the fertile imagination instrumentalists.

Thierry Giard – Culture Jazz France

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Step Tempest reveals the positive message in “Message In Motion”

mindset2It’s no secret that as a listener and review, I’m drawn to the work of the rhythm section. Not that I don’t appreciate a great saxophonist or guitarist but it’s the response and the interaction with the people keeping the flow going that often catches my ears first.

Message In Motion” is bassist and composer Peter Brendler‘s second release for Posi-Tone Records (my review of the debut is here); happily, the album features the same ensemble as the first including Rich Perry (tenor saxophone), Peter Evans (trumpet) and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums).  Guitarist Ben Monder joins the band on four of the 10 tracks.  One of the more arresting attributes of the debut was how “open” and exploratory the music was and that carries over to this recording as well. The program starts out with a good “blues shuffle”, the front line playing a sweet theme that leads into Evans’ circular solo and into Perry’s romp while the rhythm section keeps the motor running (though pay attention to how Brendler switches for “walking lines” to playing counterpoint.  The playfulness of the bassist’s infectiousness “Angelica” and it’s a Sonny Rollins-like romp that features smart interactions between the bassist and Sperrazza. You can feel the spirit of playfulness on the swinging “Very Light And Very Sweet” and also on the Clifford Brown-like feel on “Didn’t Do Nothing.”  While Brendler and Sperrazza “dance” around underneath, Perry and Evans build sparkling solos on both tracks.

The “vocabulary” of the program changes with the deep blues of “Gimme the Numbers.” The track features Monder’s unique comping underneath the front line and the solos. His subtle solo near the close of the piece really captures the “smoky room” quality of the tune.  He also appears on the cover of Elliot Smith’s “Easy Way Out” but not until the bassist – with Sperrazza’s fine brush work – introduces the tune with a splendid solo.  Perry and Evan sit this out so Monder gets a longer spotlight.  His “fuzzed” guitar also leads the way on “Lucky In Astoria” combining with Perry to present the theme ; the two then work and weave their lines around each other as the drummer and bassist spur them forward.

The other “non-original” on the album is a playful rendition of Alice Coltrane’s “Ptah the El Daoud” – Sperrazza’s marching drums and Brendler’s “oom-pah” bass lines accompany the front line as they read through the theme.  The piece opens up in subtle ways as the bass expands on its rhythmic approach and the drums interacts with Perry on his expansive explorations.  Evans goes “out” a little further with a series of spurts and sputters in the midst of his  while the rhythm section continues to push forward.  The blend of traditional rhythms and exploratory, even noisy, solos is a highlight of the recording.

Come to “Message In Motion” with open ears and open mind; you will not be disappointed.  The music that Peter Brendler creates with Rich Perry, Peter Evans, Vinnie Sperrazza, and Ben Monder is lively, thoughtful, playful, exciting, and smart.  This fine album makes one wish to see and hear this group live.

Richard B. Kamins – Step Tempest

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Midwest Record on Peter Brendler “Outside the Line”…

http://midwestrecord.com/MWR793.html

PETER BRENDLER/Outside the Line: For a bass player looking to move jazz sounds forward into uncharted territory, “Walk On the Wild side” is a good jumping off point to bring listeners into the tent with something familiar but still outré after 40 years and let them wander the rooms from there. A high octane modern jazz set, Brandler and crew play as one even when heading off in different directions. The set lives up to the title, and progressive and fearless ears will be well rewarded by a rising, improvising jazzbo that just doesn’t take no for an answer. Well done.
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