KYLE NASSER'S CHARMINGLY INTELLECTUAL JAZZ CHOPS
KYLE NASSER

“Persistent Fancy”

ropeadope RAD-435

“Compellingly complex” was an enticing phrase in the press release accompanying reedman Kyle Nasser's latest album, “Persistent Fancy,” 14 tracks of jazz fancy (in the traditional sense of the word) that include a pair of suites quite different from each other. There's also a separate reference to Shakespeare's grand rogue Falstaff from “Henry V.”

Determined to prove intelligence can have its own allure, this album holds up to being played for hours without ever seeming repetitious.

Why would anybody want to play it that long? Why, indeed. Many people will see a certain movie many times over without anyone giving that a second thought. Nasser's improvising and composing can be just as contagious.

A student at Harvard (studying the intricacies of both Economics and Political Philosophy) and at Berklee (after crossing paths with iconic pianist Hank Jones), Nasser's music hews to both an economy of line and the brisk freedom of exuberance.

All these qualities are not so obvious at first listen. Give the album some time. Let it soak in, softening the angular projections that might feel too aggressive at first.

Bringing their own intellects to the scene are Roman Filiu, alto sax; Jeff Miles, guitar; Dov Manski, piano and synth; Nick Jost, bass; Allan Mednard, drums. Nasser is heard on tenor and soprano saxes.

The twin peaks of “Persistent Fancy” are the “Baroque Suite” and the “Eros Suite.” Both have been composed in three balanced sections.

Naming Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues as the inspiration, Nasser names his Baroque trio of parts as “Prelude,” “Fugue” and “Improv.” To my ear, “Improv” is the most interesting. The two horns play out in an embroidered counterpoint that reminded me of a three-dimensional crossword puzzle.

Just two tracks later, “Eros” begins with its own “Prelude,” stretching themes into unexpected shapes, like furniture designs from the 1950s. The second movement, “Desire,” satisfies in its own way and, sure enough, “Postlude to Desire,” becomes a tender reflection on euphoria.

There are six other unrelated pieces, scatttered like finished portraits at an exhibition, offering their own changes of mood until the final selection, equally fresh and definitely ready to be a part of our new millennium – “Coffee and Cannabis.”

To hear some samples and get your own copy of the recording, visit kylenasser.com or ropeadope.com


















CLINTON WYATT SMITH ROCKS OUT TO "NEVER FORGET"

From Tucson's vibrant rock scene and Baby Gas Mask Records comes a new voice both muscular and plaintive, Clinton Wyatt Smith.

Right up front Smith wants you to know which side he is on, dedicating this four-track EP “Never Forget” to “All those who have bravely served and those who are bravely serving in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. Your sacrifice will NEVER be forgotten.”

Flexing its own tough sound, the album's title track gives gritty hope to the singer/songwriter's own deep searching for that final resolution. Meanwhile a bleak future is implied in the album's cover art with a pair of unlaced combat boots lying tossed onto an empty sand dune.

Working with Chris Levesque (bass, keys, backup vox) and Seth Mauzy (drum synth), the trio develops a haunting insistence that adds ominous undertones to all Smith's vocals.

The most complex is “A Golden Ticket,” filled with urban conflict and concrete anguish. Laying down an additional layer of aching blues finality is Kevin Graham's lead guitar.

"Cool Drink” begins with an unassuming narration that Smith builds with raging repetition, screaming for release from his own parched desperation. Doing the drumming on “Cool Drink” is Melissa Mauzy.

All four tracks work through their emotions at a meaningful pace, giving each phrase time enough to reach its full effect. 

Whether confronted by life's reluctance to give up answers that may not even exist – as he does on the title track – or raging at the internalized frustrations of ominously titled “Torn In Two,” Smith maintains the hunt with convincing intensity.

Even though every high note he sings comes with a price, we know that by the end his account will be paid in full.

To get your own copy of “Never Forget,” email: clintonwyattsmith@gmail.com



GREG FISHMAN, DOUG WEBB BLOW UP A STORM OF TENOR COOLNESS
Greg Fishman

"So You Say"

Greg Fishman Jazz Studios
Movies have always had the luxury of being able to go back to an earlier time and still feel brand-new. Tenor sax romanticist Greg Fishman's new quintet recording, “So You Say,” is like that.

Recorded with an equally lyrical Doug Webb, also playing tenor, the set-up with Mitch Foreman, piano, Kevin Axt, bass, and Dan Schnelle, drums, gives a big hug to those old school battles of the horns – two guys from the 1940s wearing pegged pants and battling it out for bandstand supremacy at 3 a.m.

But here in 2018, these two reedmen are not dueling. They are racing joyfully through modern dimensions of complex chord changes, having fun playing tons of notes just because they can. This is joyful jazz, to be sure.

Calling this a recording of two tenors sittin' around shootin' the breeze would also be accurate, because all the jazz in this 10-track album is breezy and refreshing. Everything is played 100 percent straight ahead by artists who want to connect directly with their music, the beauty, the grace, the intricacies performed on the run, sometimes exceptionally elaborate but always classically cool.

All the pieces are original compositions, with six by Fishman and four by Webb. So in synch are their ideas, sometimes it can be difficult to tell when one song ends and the next begins.

The first track, Fishman's “Fast Forward,” sets the table with a high speed, lyrically bop-ish frolic with the two horn men chasing each other through a maze of harmonic hairpin turns, while bursts of piano, bass and drum breaks keep urging them on.

A bit harder edged and strictly swinging is Webb's “One For Hank,” clearly hearkening back to an earlier time. Both saxes take on a more muscular attitude, feeling the spirit of the beat.

Fishman contributes a more personal “Nikki's Waltz,” with a lovely melody line that opens opportunities for both players to draw on tender moments from their own lives.

The blues makes it presence known in Fishman's melancholy “Harlem Avenue,” a haunting refrain in search of a film noir movie in black-and-white. If Bogie and Bacall were there, it would be perfect.

254 West 82nd” identifies a Webb tune that feels like a kinetic swirl of urban neon colors set spinning by Axt's own bass riffs. While the pace approaches frenzy, everything is kept under control with an awesome degree of button-down finesse.

Another cut named for a residence is Fishman's “Adams Street,” There must be something about real estate that inspires these guys because the energy just keeps on coming.

So much is going on that you quickly appreciate the clarity of everyone's playing. Think of that crisp picture on one of those new ultra-high-definition giant-sized TV screens. This sounds like that looks.

To get a copy of “So You Say” for yourself, visit gregfishmanjazzstudios.com