Music Reviews

Artist: Meridian Arts Ensemble (@)
Title: Seven Kings
Format: CD
Label: Innova (@)
Rated: *****
I enjoy jazz, so I was interested to see what we have here. This is five compositions spread out over 13 tracks, and weighs in at almost 76 minutes, so rather than listing each movement individually, I’ll discuss each one as a whole. Let’s get into it. First off, we have “Migration” by Daniel Grabois. This is the shortest piece on the disc, and it reminds me of some of the work of Dizzy Gillespie. This is pretty clean jazz (in the sense of structure) with a heavy emphasis on the trumpet. Well executed, but kind of missing the looseness I like in jazz. Moving into David Sanford’s “Seven Kings,” we get the more chaotic and frantic feel that I was looking for. It all holds together well, though – from the drum solo and rapid-fire horns that keep the rhythm going in the “Contrapunctus I” segment to the peaceful vibraphone of “Chimes,” this composition keeps everything moving along well. The standout portion though is “Contrapunctus II,” which sometimes sounds like everyone is playing a completely different piece, but it still manages to keep a sense of cohesion. Next up, we have “For Bass Quintet and Percussion” by Dave Ballou. This piece slowly builds in complexity and intensity over time, with a skillful use of silence. I am reminded of the poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens, which states, "I do not know which to prefer, The beauty of inflections, Or the beauty of innuendoes, The blackbird whistling Or just after." Ballou gets that sometimes the space between the notes can be just as important as the notes. Next up, we have “Passed Time” by Edward Jacobs. I will admit that this one really didn’t do much for me, since it didn’t really have the energy of the previous compositions. This one was more orchestral and less jazzy; my wife remarked that it sounded like it belonged in a movie soundtrack. Finally, we have Robert Maggio’s “Revolver.” From the machine gun drums and horn blasts that open this up, you know that you are in for an interesting ride. The music, along with the evocative song titles set the mood well. For example, “With Nobody’s Help (Lost and Badly Wounded),” evokes a feeling of wandering; you can almost feel the buzzards circling overhead. It all comes together with the final segment, “Opened to the Fragility (Slipping Away),” which is a slow, improvised piece, with raucous drums that offer a stark contrast to the languid horns, ending almost peacefully. Overall this isn’t really as experimental as what I am used to reviewing for Chain D.L.K., but it is well done and quite enjoyable as a whole. If you like solid jazz, this is worth checking out.

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