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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Darren Johnston's Gone To Chicago - The Big Lift (Porto Franco, 2011) ****

 By Stef

Trumpeter Darren Johnston is a musician who has incredible ears and an openness for many subgenres of jazz, ranging from the simple trio combo as with "The Nice Guy Trio" to more adventurous stuff as on "Reasons For Moving" or "Third Impulse", with the recent "The Edge Of The Forest" somewhere in between.

On "The Big Lift", he continues his journey, exploring musical possibilities and arrangements, surely a long stretch beyond mainstream, yet so very rooted in the jazz tradition, with a band of Chicago's finest musicians :
Jeb Bishop on trombone, Jason Adasiewicz on vibes, Nate McBride on bass, and Frank Rosaly on drums.

And these five musicians' interplay is incredibly tight and loose at the same time : they stick to the agreed structures and arrangements while improvising freely and abundantly before unexpectedly falling back on unison lines and solid rhythmic patterns. You can hear blues, swing, calypso, funeral band and big band arrangements in a way like you've never heard them before : stretched and pushed beyond tradition, while retaining the value of their original character and musical enjoyment. Inventive compositions meet instrumental prowess meet human warmth.

Listen and download from eMusic.

Buy from Instantjazz.

The Nice Guy Trio - Sidewalks And Alleys/Walking Music (Porto Franco Records, 2011) ***½

We find Darren Johnston back in the company of Rob Reich on accordion and Daniel Fabricant on bass for their sophomore album with the trio, now accompanied by a string quartet consisting of Mads Tolling and Anthony Blea on violins, Dina Macabee on viola, and Mark Summers on cello.The album consists of two five-piece suites, hence the double title. Musical influences from all over the world are brought in a jazzy, chamber-like setting. If you like the Tin Hat Trio, or Gato Libre, you will surely enjoy this too. Fresh and light-footed.

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef