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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Familiar paths

By Paul Acquaro

I love hiking, often hitting trails in the New York area that I've covered time and time again. While I often feel the need to explore new and exotic, it's always a pleasure to come back to the more familiar and have it feel fresh again. In a sense, Nick Moran Trio's 'No Time Like Now' and Dan Messore's 'Indigo Kid' are kind of like new trips from familiar trailheads, one a guitar-organ trio and the other impressionistic modern jazz quartet, that while not on the avant-garde side of jazz, are quite enjoyable listens.

Nick Moran Trio - No Time Like Now (Manor Sound Records, 2012)

The guitar-organ trio has a rich history in jazz. From the Blue Note soul jazz to the jazz rock of Lifetime to the current crop of modern trios (like this one), it's a rich versatile sound.

Moran opens with an ebullient rendition of Cream's Strange Brew. He works his bright clean toned guitar ably over and around the rock classic. Brad Whiteley's organ playing fits excellently and Chris Benham's drumming buoys the song along. 'My Beautiful', which follows, is indeed a beautiful bossa influenced tune that features some really nice comping work by Moran and Whiteley as they prop up each other's improvisations. Another highlight on the recording is 'Wishful Thinking.' The organ and guitar double up on a convoluted melody while the rhythm pulsates and drives the song right into a hard edged guitar solo. The momentum here is seductive.

I'm going to avoid a song by song break down and simply wrap it by saying this is a tuneful and exciting album and worth checking out. See/listen below.

Indigo Kid (Babel, 2012)

From the UK comes guitarist Dan Messore's group 'Indigo Kid'. Drawing on a cast of contemporary and experienced players, Messore has created a collection of nicely developed modern jazz originals. His guitar is clear and bright with a hint of Metheny in his sound. Employing a generous approach, he gives saxophonist Iain Ballamy plenty of space to create.

The chords at the start of 'First Light', which kicks off the album, sets the stage with its open sound and light feel. A crisp upbeat melody from the sax delivered at times in unison with Messore propels the song along. While some of the melodies are a little light for my tastes, his execution is always thoughtful and precise. A highlight is found in the austere 'Mr. Lepard'. By letting strings and chords tones ring and employing rhythmic finger pickings, Messore invokes a feeling of open vistas and parched landscapes.

More than deftly assisting is bassist Tim Harries and drummer Gethin Jones. Messore seems like a player who has developed a solid sound rooted in modern jazz. Again, check below for a song off the album.

In the context of this blog, which often embraces the experimental and avant-garde, these two recordings are a bit of an anomaly. I'm refraining from trying to "star" these albums as they are outside this blog's usual mileu. However, to loop back to my original metaphor, sometimes it's nice to take a trip down well travelled trail. Who knows that you may re-discover or hear along the way. Take a listen below.

Nick Moran Trio - "Say Hi to Paris":

Indigo Kid - "First Light":

© stef