Jazz CD Reviews

Brooklyn Jazz Underground – A Portrait Of Brooklyn – BJU Records

Grass roots collective invigorates urban jazz.

Published on July 26, 2012

Brooklyn Jazz Underground – A Portrait Of Brooklyn – BJU Records

Brooklyn Jazz Underground – A Portrait Of Brooklyn – BJU Records BJUR 035, 61:04 ****½:

(David Smith – trumpet; Adam Kolter – tenor saxophone, alto saxophone bass clarinet, clarinet, flute; Dan Pratt – tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute; Anne Mette Iversen – acoustic bass; Rob Garcia – drums, cymbals)

The original concept of Brooklyn Jazz Underground was to establish a cooperative of independent musical artist to encourage and spread the gospel of this vibrant cultural scene. By sharing some of the logistics, the artists have been able to reign in some of the expenses of leading a group. In 2008, the collective launched their own label, Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records. In a saturated jazz market, BJU Records utilizes a coordination of simultaneous releases for increased exposure. Additionally the musicians perform at a festival in the West Village, promoting each other’s music. As a marketing tool, the label has released a sampler volume.

The grassroots effort continues with the release of Brooklyn Jazz Underground: A Portrait Of Brooklyn. Consisting of ten original compositions by the BJU members, it reflects a change in direction. These band leaders, who are known for performing individually with their own groups, have decided to record as an ensemble. Each musician has contributed two original compositions. The group includes David Smith (trumpet), Adam Kolker (tenor/alto saxophone, clarinets, flute), Dan Pratt (tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute), Anne Mette Iversen (acoustic bass) and Rob Garcia (drums). Relying on a group arrangement dynamic, the musicians build to a cohesive momentum. The opening track, “Starr St.,” is anchored by a driving bass line and crashing drums. Composer Smith executes a complicated trumpet solo, as Pratt and Kolker create a walled effect of reeds and horns. “Buttermilk Channel” smolders as composer Pratt assumes lead on tenor.

A Portrait Of Brooklyn has a variety of stylized jazz, but it all coalesces around the group’s cohesion. “JV” has a looser, dissonant feel. There is an improvisational ambiance, but the sharp rhythm of Iversen and Garcia keeps things in focus. “Osgood In Brooklyn” begins with a groove bass line that has staccato horn accents. After a hushed drum solo, there is a layered effect with horns and reeds. When the band moves into improvisation, they inevitably return to the core structure. The music has an urban edginess, almost reminiscent of ‘50s film scores. The use of flutes (Pratt and Kolker) on “The Cherry Bees” is atmospheric and Smith’s plaintive solo merges effortlessly.

The grittiness picks up on “The Hill”, where drummer Garcia is featured on a solo. There is a big band swagger that makes room for all of the soloists. The band is explosive on “The Cyclone” (a reference to Coney Island?). Smith lets loose with a percolating run. In a change of pace, “Totem” is an elegant lyrical ballad with delicacy. Iversen contributes an excellent solo.

A Portrait Of Brooklyn is a jazzy delight!

TrackList: Starr St.; Buttermilk Channel; JV; King; 1898; Osgood In Brooklyn; The Cherry Bees; The Hill; Totem; The Cyclone

—Robbie Gerson




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