Modern Jazz Movement
|LOCAL JAZZ SCENE GETS A SHOT IN THE ARM
by Thomas Knapp, The Daily Advertiser Sept. 2000
Jazz, like wine, coffee or pro wrestling is an acquired taste. Its followers relish pleasures that to others may seem esoteric or downright baffling. Nowhere is this more true than with improvisational jazz, where traditional elements of theme and structure give way to flights of musical fancy. Herein lies the rub: Will such free spirit enthrall a listener, or merely leave him searching for coherence? It depend on whether or not one is a jazz fan.
A jazz fan would dig MJM's debut disc. Full of intelligent musical statements and spirited interplay, the Lafayette quintet amply illustrates how good musicians listen to one another as much as they do their own instruments. Tempering their excursions with well placed heads (the main motif of a given song), MJM swing and bop with understated expertise.
The opening track, "Theme One," sounds like a homage to Miles Davis in his Bitches Brew prime, although drummer Frank Kincel offsets the affair with grooves and fills that sound oddly like Kieth Moon. It interlocks asymmetrically with Dion Pierre's repetitive upright bass line, and the two along with Shin Ishida's textural piano playing, provide an unusual backdrop for Dennis Skerrett's sax and Jeff Martin's trumpet forays.
Other tracks see the rhythm section tack there own rides such as Pierre's excellent bass solos on the very Mancini feeling "Mediterranean Mamma" and Shuffling "Big Mo." For the most part, however the stars are Skerrett and Martin, who have obviously done their cool jazz homework.
It's evident that this stuff, while it has a general framework wrought by many live gigs, was by and large improvised while the tape was rolling. In an era where musicians of most styles are encouraged by producers to have every last nuance laid out beforehand, such melodic bravado is refreshing. Ironically, this music is very traditional -at least in the field of improv jazz. Enjoy it with a good triple espresso, and watch for the curves in the road.
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