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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Keefe Jackson/Oscar Jan Hoogland/Joshua Abrams/Mikel Patrick Avery - These Things Happen (Astral Spirits, 2022)

This one’s going on my list of “joyful” albums of 2022. Saxes, piano, bass, and drums explore the space of the characters of jazz—as in “That guy’s really a character!”. Monk’s “Epistrophy” sets a tone and intention. The quartet plays with downtown eyebrows, arched with (non-ironic) humor and a little swagger. It’s a short set, an EP, which is a reason to lament. I want more.

The three other covers are Monk’s “Bemsha Swing,” “Gotta Get Some Sleep,” by Dewey Redman, and “The Happenings,” by Herbie Nichols, who doesn’t get covered nearly enough. As much as Jackson’s sax is the lead voice, this feels sort of like a pianist’s album. Oscar Jan Hoogland seems to have the history of jazz piano at his fingers. Yeah, he’s building on the magisteria suggested by Monk and Nichols, but he’s using it to craft his own vision (he did all the arrangements).

His playing brings out hints of New Orleans and early swing. On his original “Aahanghuis,” he leans into Ellingtonian exotica such that I half expect to hear the quivering Cotton Club clarinet section come in. His other piece, “Wimpel,” is a lovely ballad with an askew and charming mid-tempo middle section that makes for one of the most satisfying tension/release moments I’ve had this year. “Bemsha Swing” is a far out deconstruction of the tune that demonstrates how far you can go and still be informed by the post-bop Monk ethic.

Jackson’s playing is broad and warm throughout. I’ve had occasion before to comment on his way with repetition. It brings Mal Waldron to my mind (it’s always good when Mal Waldron comes to mind.) Abrams and Avery provide the (intricate and empathic) sets for this theater, and change them in ways that add to the drama, rather than just support it.