Jazz CD Reviews
Burning Gums – Roni Music
Published on September 28, 2011
Burning Gums – Burning Gums [10/1/11] – Roni Music RM-0472, 53:20 ***:
(Ron Jackson – guitar, exec. producer; Norbert Marius – bass, producer, engineer; Matsuura Hiroyuki – drums, percussion)
Guitarist Ron Jackson is having a busy year. On the same day Jackson has released not one but two studio recordings: the organ trio date Flubby Dubby, and Burning Gums, which is the eponymous debut of Jackson’s wider-ranging trio of the same name. Jackson has performed with a broad spectrum of artists, from Taj Mahal to Jimmy McGriff, worked with choirs, world music ensembles and Klezmer groups, and in Broadway orchestras. Jackson brings some of those distinctive tastes to the nine tracks on Burning Gums’ first album. Jackson gets appropriately characteristic support from Japanese drummer/ percussionist Hiroyuki Matsuura (who has an extensive CV which includes reggae, jazz, hip-hop and more) and Hungarian-born bassist/producer Norbert Marius (whose equally varied career includes stints backing Melba Moore, Jackie Terrasson and others).
The record opens with the Latinized cool-down, “Samba de Quejio,” Marius’ stab at contemporary radio-friendly jazz. While Matsuura lays down a steady humid beat with the accent on cymbals, Jackson shows that Pat Metheny and Wes Montgomery are both influences, with fluid and swift chord sequences. Meanwhile, Marius uses counterpoint bass riffs which add an element of adroitness to the arrangement. Another Marius composition, the mid-tempo “Mangrove DoReMi,” has a comparably moisture-infused mannerism, the type of urban and urbane jazz which put the CTI and Tappan Zee labels on the map. Along matching lines, Jackson injects a Caribbean flavor into his “Going Bush,” which has an affable demeanor similar to some of Bob James’ 1980s material, mainly due to Jackson’s appealing, Eric Gale-ish tone. Jackson’s “Excerpt of Tina Number III” elevates the trio’s modernistic mode. The rhythm section keeps to a firm groove, while Jackson creates six-string patterns reminiscent of fusionists such as Larry Coryell, while Marius’ dexterous bass provides a Weather Reportesque undercurrent, particularly during his melodic solo, which is reinforced by Jackson’s contributory guitar. Groove is all important on an atypical translation of Benny Golson’s classic, “Killer Joe,” where Marius inserts military “walkie talkie,” conversations underneath the entire arrangement. The persistently funky groove is enough to engage attention; the supplementary armed forces chatter is nonsensical.
Another slump comes when Jackson reevaluates one of his older numbers via a new rendition of “Sacred Love,” previously issued on his recording Song for Luis, a 1996 duet album with bassist Rufus Reid. The fresh interpretation retains Jackson’s lithe melody but escalates the metropolitan jazz quotient, which is not a notable improvement. However, the trio does things right on a minimized remake of Miles Davis’ perennial standard “So What.” Some Davis fans probably will not appreciate this cosmopolitan reconstruction, which has a slightly formless foundation and tends to curve from the theme into ambient territory.
Ron Jackson’s 1990s output on the Muse label had a traditionalist swing which bore bountiful fruit. Jackson’s latest does not have the equivalent degree of sparkle or inventiveness. While Jackson’s new trio, Burning Gums, is not lazy, the threesome does not produce much which seems inspired or stimulated.
1. Samba de Queijo
2. Excerpt of Tina III
3. Killer Joe
4. Sacred Love
5. Going Bush
6. So What
7. Mangrove DoReMi
8. Madras Parallel
9. Park Slope
– Doug Simpson