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Jazzology November: Eivind Aarset 4tet, Farnell Newton, Beth McKenna and Jon Gordon

Jazz from Norway with The Eivind Aarset 4tet, another Posi-Tone winner with Oregon trumpeter Farnell Newton, Montreal woodwind whiz Beth McKenna does it her way and sax man Jon Gordon answers Leonard Bernstein.

 

The mysterious cover of "Phantasmagoria or A Different Kind of Journey" by the Eivind Aarset 4tet

The mysterious cover of "Phantasmagoria or A Different Kind of Journey" by the Eivind Aarset 4tet

     From Norway comes the Eivind Aarset 4tet and its Phantasmagoria or A Different Kind of Journey wherein the art of the hard-rock shred is subsumed by ambient overtones, psychedelic bossa-nova, post-punk avant-garde, minimalism, classical, movie soundtrack music, art-rock, progressive jazz and trad-jazz like what the legendary guitarist Joe Pass [1929-1994] used to play. It could be disconnected, drifting or swaggering with deep grooves and mysterious circuitous dead-ends. Aarset is a different kind of guitarist, one who knows the tonal capabilities of his instrument and ignores them, creating new ones. His adventurism is infectiously enthusiastic. This is pure sound for sound’s sake alone and, as such, is a mighty testament to the width and breath of this guitarist’s odyssey. May be keep searching like this for years to come. Bravo!

Faarnell Newton

     Another winner from Posi-Tone! Producer Marc Free can do no wrong. Oregon trumpeter Farnell Newton hits a home run with his third CD, Feel The Love. Heavily influenced by Freddie Hubbard, he can also funk it up with the best of ‘em (as evidenced by his stageside antics with the likes of Parliament-Funkadelic and Stevie Wonder) but he can also easy-slide into a swing or post-bop groove.
“Affectionately Roy” is for another influence, Roy Hargrove. And he doesn’t just take from fellow trumpet men. “A Child Not Yet Born” could’ve been one of those great Coltrane ballads. Ornette Coleman could’ve written “Lawn Darts.” Plus he’s literate. “The Bluest Eyes” was inspired by a Toni Morrison novel. He moves to a bossa-nova beat on “Literal.” “The Force of Gravity” is a waltz. But the highlight has to be the awesome “Pale” where which goes through dizzying changes. Kudos as well to the Posi-Tone rhythm section of the incredibly gifted pianist Art Hirahara, bad-ass bassist Boris Kovlov and right-on-time drummer Rudy Royston. Plus he has some great guests like trombone man Michael Dease and four smokin’ saxophonists.

     

Beth McKenna

     Montreal woodwind whiz Beth McKenna hits all the right notes on Beyond Here. Born in Nova Scotia, she’s an educator, band-leader, arranger and composer who plays sax, flute and clarinet. There’s an urgency to her sound, an enticing excitement. Her arrangements take a circuitous route. Obviously,  getting there is most of the fun. It’s alternately funky, dark, mysterious ("Tides"), engaging, gorgeous, complex and definitely falls outside of all known jazz parameters. Think Snarky Puppy after a day of listening to Pink Floyd. Guillaume Martineau plays piano, Rhodes and Wurlitzer. Francois Jalbert is the Pat Metheny of the group. His guitar veers off into the stratosphere at times refusing to return to Earth until the very last second. Olivier Babaz is a master of both electric and acoustic bass. Drummer Peter Colantonio keeps things pushing and prodding. And the voice of Sarah Rossey is but another layer of wordless sound.

The Beth McKenna Quintet courtesy Ernesto Cervini

The Beth McKenna Quintet courtesy Ernesto Cervini

Jon Gordon

     “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before”--Leonard Bernstein. Taking his inspiration from that famous quote, saxophonist/composer/educator Jon Gordon first made Answer in 2019 and now leads his new nonet on Stranger Than Fiction (ArtistShare). It’s a glorious effort, filled to the brim with exquisite chops, ensemble playing and adventurous charts over the course of its 10 tracks.

 

The Jon Gordon Quintet courtesy Ann Braithwaite

The Jon Gordon Quintet courtesy Ann Braithwaite