Jazz CD Reviews

Chris Colangelo – Elaine’s Song – C Note

On his newest album, Elaine’s Song, bassist Chris Colangelo demonstrates his significant compositional and leadership abilities.

Published on August 30, 2010

Chris Colangelo – Elaine’s Song – C Note

Chris Colangelo – Elaine’s Song – C Note CNR001, 60:53 ****:

(Chris Colangelo – bass, producer; John Beasley – piano; Steve Hass – drums; Bob Sheppard – tenor saxophone (tracks 1 and 9) and soprano saxophone (tracks 3 and 8); Benn Clatworthy – tenor saxophone (tracks 2 and 6) and flute (track 4); Zane Musa – alto saxophone (track 2))

Anyone familiar with the Los Angeles jazz scene probably is already acquainted with bassist Chris Colangelo: he has worked at length in the City of Angels jazz circuit, as a leader or a guest, has recorded with other artists, and done stints for television and soundtrack projects. Colangelo, however, is not as well known for his composition skills, which hopefully will change with his latest outing, Elaine’s Song, the nine-track, hour-long album Colangelo has spent two years putting together.

The mostly postbop material is a showcase for Los Angeles talent and positions a basic trio setup (celebrated pianist John Beasley, drummer Steve Hass and Colangelo) alongside other notable L.A.-based players: Benn Clatworthy (who adds tenor sax and flute), Bob Sheppard (who contributes tenor and soprano sax) and alto saxophonist Zane Musa.

The proceedings feature seven Colangelo tunes plus two covers. One prominent piece is Steve Swallow’s poignant trio ballad “Falling Grace,” which commences with Colangelo coaxing beautiful notes from his standup bass’ upper register, followed by Beasley’s melodic keyboard lines and Hass’ gliding percussive support. Up next is an animated interpretation of John Coltrane’s rarely performed “Straight Street,” with Sheppard supplying the sort of dazzling soprano sax that has made him a valuable member of the Peter Erskine Trio and no doubt has furnished him plaudits when he has toured with Chick Corea. Beasley also shines as he offers a harmonically and rhythmically rich piano solo.

While those two cuts are top-notch, it is Colangelo’s originals that take center stage, with three noteworthy, must-hear tributes. The confidently upbeat “Like Kenny (For Kenny Garrett),” illustrates Colangelo’s admiration for one of his favorite players. Few can compete with Garrett – and who would try? – but guest alto saxophonist Musa gives it his all with hard-charging riffs matched by Clatworthy’s sizzling tenor sax. After several sax choruses, Hass provides a dynamic drum solo that mixes Elvin Jones’ articulate density with Billy Higgins’ flawless drive.  Another optimistic item is “Watts Important (For Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts),” a quartet undertaking that contains more of Clatworthy’s ardent tenor and a bountiful bevy of Colangelo and Beasley rhythm clusters, with Hass’ undulating drums a foremost highlight. A further memorable homage is the title track ballad, written for Colangelo’s wife, which starts in a bass/piano/drums format sustained by Colangelo’s sinuous bass and Beasley’s flexible left-hand piano cadence (attentive listeners can hear Beasley’s Jarrett-like vocalizations as well). Sheppard then steps in with his resilient sax to increase the amorous mood.

Colangelo’s soft side is expanded on easy-going ballad “Green and Blue,” colored by Clatworthy’s flowing flute, while Hass keeps things bubbling sympathetically with his deft efforts on cymbals and snare (his finger rolls on the snare are a perceptive way to end the piece) . Colangelo’s bass endeavors here are some of his best, every note definitively placed.

Engineer Andy Waterman’s behind-the-boards magic is just that: he adroitly delineates every cymbal brush, quiet bass note or lush sax element on the ballads and conveys the excitement that suffuses the faster material.

TrackList:
1. The Ubiquitous One
2. Like Kenny (For Kenny Garrett)
3. Elaine’s Song
4. Green and Blue
5. Gryffindor’s Revenge
6. Watts Important (For Jeff “Tain” Watts)
7. Falling Grace
8. Straight Street
9. From Dark to Light

– Doug Simpson




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