Friday, November 20, 2009

Q'd UP :Snow and Jazz Alive and Well in Utah

As any skier knows, Utah is known for the pristine, powdery snow of its Wasatch Mountains, but few people would think of this western state as the source for fine jazz. With Q'd Up's new album "Quintessence" ,that perception is bound to change.

Q'd Up is a Salt Lake City based group formerly known as FJQ or Faculty Jazz Quartet.
Made up predominantly of faculty members of the Brigham Young University music department; it now consists of multi-reed artist Ray Smith; keyboard player/composer Steve Lindeman; bassist, Matt Larson and the drums, mallet playing and percussion of multi-instrumentalists Ron Brough and Jay Lawrence On this latest release they are joined by Kelly Eisenhour on a several vocal tracks.

This group of talented musicians have produced a tight, well executed album that is a fine easy listening addition to anyone's jazz collection. On "Beyond Your Wildest Dreams" , Dexter Gordon sounding tenor saxophonist Ray Smith has you checking out the liner notes to verify who it is that is actually playing here. One highlight of the album is the imaginative "Dark City Streets" penned by drummer/composer Jay Lawrence. With a Henry Mancini feel evoking dark and perhaps sinister alleys, the tune features some distinctively husky sounding alto flute work by the talented Smith and some creative city sounds overdubbed at the coda by engineer Mike Chadbourne.

The Johnny Mercer/Jerome Kern standard " Dearly Beloved" melody is reminiscent of Benny Golson's "Killer Joe" and features some fine vocal work by Kelly Eisenhour that brings to mind the great Ms. Nancy Wilson.

"Skeches of Trane" is a Jay Lawrence composition that features a driving bass line by Matt Larson and a cooking organ solo by Steve Lindeman. The song just swings throughout. Smith's Dexter Gordon influence is again on display on the Julie Styne/Sammy Cahn composition "It's You or No One" where Smith and Eisenhour join on some nice unison work with sax and voice. There is a pensive sound to the alto flute of Smith and the hollow Marimba work of Bough on Lindeman's haunting dedication to pianist Stefan Karlsson, "Take Me To Wonderland Right Away".

"Don't Blame Me",featuring the voice and lyrics of Kelly Eisenhour, is a classic torch song of an unrequited love. Eisenhour shows she has a soulful side and she is ably accompanied by Smith's tenor and Lindeman's classic blues organ sound.

The title track is the most adventurous, most rewarding cut of the album. Quintessence is that often unachievable fifth element; that highest natural form of being. On "Quintessence", Q'd Up shows it is approaching this fifth element. The "Weather Report" sounding composition has Smith's bass clarinet deftly emulating the rapid bass lines ala Jaco, before he switches horns to a Shorter-esque soprano sound. The Zawinul feel is apparent and Lindeman's keyboard pays homage to the Austrian's sound. This tightly knit group of talented musicians know how to swing and get down. Q'd Up offers solid musicianship, good song selection and tight arrangements that are the result of musicians who have been playing together for some time. Together they prove jazz is alive and well in Utah.

Recorded at LDS Motion Picture Studio. Provo, Utah 2009

Album: Quintessence; Jazz Hang Records JHR100Q

Musicians: Ray Smith (sax & woodwinds); Steve Lindeman (keyboards); Matt Larson(Bass); Ron Brough (Drums, Mallets & Percussion); Jay Lawrence (Drums, Mallets & Perfcussion); Kelly Eisenhour (Vocals on tracks 3, 6 & 10)

Tracks: Beyond Your Widest Dreams; Dark City Streets; Dearly Beloved; Sketches of Trane; Rustyn's Lullaby; It's You or No One: Brother Jay; Cine Bossa & Starbush; Take me to Wonderland Right Away; Don't Blame Me; In Pursuit of Guacamole; Quintessence.
(Favorite tracks are in bold)

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