Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Group BANN "As You Like" Modern Jazz at it's Best

Review of BANN’s   “As You Like”
Jazz Eyes Records 010
Recorded by Jay Anderson Mountain Rest Studio New Paltz, N.Y.

"As You Like"
Rarely do I hear an album, this early in the year, that makes me want to declare it a possible candidate for one of the year’s best. It is simply too early to make that kind of statement, but the new BANN release “As You Like” may very well deserve this accolade.

BANN is an acronym for the first letters of the last names of the group’s players. Seamus Blake on tenor saxophone, Jay Anderson on double bass
(and incidentally the recording engineer on this date);  Oz Noy on electric guitar and Adam Nussbaum on drums. The rhythm section of Anderson and Nussbaum is a powerful team that together set the firm foundation for the explorations of the talented Blake and the quizzical Noy.

On the opening track, the group reconstruct the well-worn Jerome Kern tune “All the Things You Are” creating a modern sound, bringing it into the 21st century. Blake’s powerful tenor plays ala Joe Henderson as Nussbaum and Anderson swing beneath. When Noy takes his fusionesque solo, resplendent with marvelously creative electronic effects. the dynamic rhythm section appropriately compliment his styling without missing a beat.

Monk’s music is especially good fodder for these guys as they tackle his “Played Twice”. There is a marvelous chemistry at work here that is quite wonderful to behold.  It is obvious that these guys all know and have studied the tradition. Blake and Noy are particularly well suited to play together, meshing their sounds on the head beautifully. When they solo, Blake’s tenor is strong, confident and biting. Noy has absorbed some of the best characteristics of Scofield’s funk, Frisell twang and combined them with Jeff Beck's blues sensibilities. Anderson’s bass lines are probing, exploratory and help push Noy along. Nussbaum finishes the piece with a stuttering Monk-like drum solo. This is a tour de force precisely because they all play so well together.

For those of us who grew up singing to Crosby, Stills & Nash, the inclusion of David Crosby’s touching “Guinivere” is a welcome surprise. Here Seamus Blake’s sensitive tenor work is simply beautiful. He articulates in a tender way that emits desire and yearning. Guitarist Noy adds his own delicate electronic effects that are superbly subtle. Nussbaum delicately brushes his cymbals in a cascade of  shimmers.

On “Days of Old” Anderson’s warm solo bass starts the song before Blake and Noy join in one of the more mellow songs on the album. Noy strums melodiously as Blake takes on a bluesy tone ending the song with a particularly poignant way.

“As You Like” is a funky tune with a repeating three note bass line and some guitar chords that simply feels good.  Blake takes the first solo, playing in melodious flow of inventive ideas. His playing, while not incendiary, is impassioned, thoughtful and evocative. When it is Noy’s turn his solo is bursting with ideas, quirky stylistic choices and an attack that blurs the boundaries between jazz and rock.

On Anderson’s “ At Sundown” we hear the Frisellian side of Noy. This decidedly western flavored tune is played brilliantly by the entire ensemble with Blake and Noy dueting in perfect sync on the theme. Noy executes a series of slides and tremolos that are extremely creative. Nussbaum keeps that back in the saddle beat as Noy meanders is a most twangy way, at times sounding like slide guitar wizard David Tronzo. Anderson plucks his way around his melody and the tune fades away like the sun dipping into the desert sand.

Oz Noy’s wonderfully infectious “ Minor Shuffle” is a playful romp that has Blake and Noy trading melody lines. Noy is joyfully unpredictable when he solos here without straying too far form his melody. He is a formidable player that has strangely not yet reached the prominence of some of his contemporaries. If his work on this album is any indication, his star is inevitably on the rise.

Joe Henderson’s “Isotope”  is a complex, jagged melody line that the group executes brilliantly. Blake’s sound is reminiscent of Joe’s. He has a deep resonant tone and he intonates clearly.  I first heard Seamus Blake on his 
Live In Italy“Live in Italy” album recorded in 2007. I heard something there and I continue to find his playing compelling. He has a fine command of his instrument and he plays with an emotional appeal that makes you want to hear more.

Jay Anderson and Adam Nussbaum are consummate professionals and first call musicians. They are the glue that holds this band together.  BANN is a powerful and effective communicator of a modern and exciting form of jazz that is entertaining, fresh, approachable and creative. I hope they stay together long enough to create some more great music.

Musicians: Seamus Blake, tenor sax; Jay Anderson double bass; Oz Noy, guitar and effects; Adam Nussbaum, drums

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