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Friday, September 11, 2009

James Carney Group - Ways & Means (Songlines, 2009) ****

Written as "a virtual film score", this album is the sequel to a commissioned soundtrack that pianist James Carney worked on, and which offered interesting options, yet was too restrictive in terms of pace and musical options : the movie dictated the music. The advantage of a virtual film score is that you can keep the same cinematic approach without the restrictions. Regardless of the explanations, this is a very imaginative modern jazz album, which brings together some of the best musicians of the moment : Peter Epstein on soprano and alto, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Tony Malaby on tenor, Josh Roseman on trombone, Chris Lightcap on bass and Mark Ferber on drums, with Carney on piano and synth. You can debate about the story that evolves before your mind's eye (what is this virtual movie about?), yet it works in a way. Musical dialogues conjure up pictures of people arguing, pleading, or mourning their fate during the solos, or dramatic moments when the speed and the tension increase, the improvised pieces adding dimensions of distress, but luckily it has the musical flow you expect from good music, rather than the sudden twists and turns of silent movie soundtracks, or the repetitive shallow nature of the more modern scores. This is music with ideas that get time to be developed and explored. The downside of this "virtual film score" knowledge is that you listen to this music differently than usually - you try to picture what is taking place, and I'm not sure I always like this, because you stop listening to the music for it's own sake. So, forget about this movie angle (sorry I mentioned it), and just enjoy the music for what it is : creative modern jazz, played by great musicians, who are fully dedicated to the project at hand.

© stef


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