Thursday, February 13, 2014

Matt Bauder - Nightshades (Clean Feed, 2014) ****

There are a lot of interesting connections and similarities between Matt Bauder and Nate Wooley, besides the fact that they know each other very well and that they play together on multiple records, including the one I review here. Both of them had huge success with the debut recordings for Clean Feed in 2011. Both of them presented albums where they lead a couple of musicians to fearlessly dive into the rich tradition of the jazz idiom. Nate’s quintet records recalled the sound of Eric Dolphy’s monumental Out to Lunch, Matt Bauder Day In Pictures managed to capture the essence of the famous “3 o’clock in the morning, downtown NY” Rudy Van Gelder sound. And then, both of them had somewhat of a strange sophomore release that followed.

Nate Wooley’s Sit in The Throne Of Friendship offered us an augmented lineup, a more expanded take on the debut record, somewhat more calm, almost pastoral “dust & dirt” sound, with a lot of wind in the tree tops. At first it was a strange record for me, not at all what I expected, but on repeated listens I started to perceive the layers, the depth, the meaning of the themes, the magic of the solos, the timbre, the pulse, the silence. Now for me it’s a regular, almost daily affair to listen to that album.

It’s almost the same experience with the new Matt Bauder record – Nightshades. The line-up change is here, the sound and structure that caught me off-guard are here, the whole new aura that surrounds the music – here. Instead of Angelica Sanchez on piano – here we have the tireless genius of Kris Davis. Angelica brought the rich piano sound and an interesting ear for counterpoint and the wit to find harmonies in the strangest places that expand the palette of sound. Kris Davis is more about movement - almost percussive, majestically restrained and controlled chromatic chaos, that sparkles totally unexpected and unusual lines trough the record. For me she is the main reason why this is an entirely differed record from the first one – Kris Davis just can make that much of a change in the structure and the dynamic. Nate Wooley is also one of the reasons why this record is different than the previous one. He is like… unrecognizable. The bright golden tone, the restraint, the discipline. Not that someone should want and expect discipline from Mr. Wooley’s trumpet, but its interesting to see all of his incarnations, all his of his coats and colors, to see how he can change, how he can answer a certain call.

And now, for the leader of this quintet.

There are too many musicians that are capable of capturing a certain era, structure or sound – and consider it like it's their own, so that they can chew on in till they turn themselves and the familiar quality into a shameless self-parody. Matt Bauder is not one of them. Matt Bauder is romantic about a certain era, but he never acts like he invented it. Matt Bauder is just happy to have the honor to play with the familiar sound and its endless possibilities, to challenge himself,  to hold hands with it, to look it in the eyes, to make love with it, to let it go. It's always a blast to discover how the story rolls on with his deep narrative solos, to let the inventive themes to take complete control of your feet. I can not recall a reference of such velvety tenor sound like the one of Matt Bauder… and man, that signature shivering sound… what can someone possibly say about that?!

It was nice to experience all the stages with this record, the disbelief, the boredom… and then the revelation. Why we tend to put things in boxes with labels and expect certain things? No one knows. Doubt that anyone in this quintet knows for sure. But “Matt Bauder and co.” know how to let go and not to chew on things over and over. Simply just let your self go on this magnificent record.

Highly recommended!

You can buy it from

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