Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chris Massey and "Vibrainium"

Young drummer Chris Massey leads a select group he calls the "Nue Jazz Project." Their new album Vibrainium (Chris Massey Music) showcases the band and the songwriting abilities of Mr. Massey and several of his bandmates.

This is a throughly modern outing and the band is up to the challenge of creating "Neu" jazz. Good soloists are out front throughout, not the least in Chris Massey himself. Benjamin Drazen plays some heated lines on the alto and soprano and perhaps is the strongest of them. Donald Malloy is in the bold brassy trumpet tradition, and pianist Evgeny Lebedev has a nice touch and some good harmonic-melodic ideas. The rhythm team of Massey and bassist David Ostrem keep it all swinging.

Comparisons to Art Bleakey's Jazz Messengers have been made, and that's inevitable. A drummer-led group playing a modern version of hard bop. . . so who comes to mind then? But the many years that have now intervened between the heyday of the Messengers and today are reflected in the music. The opener "Galactus" for example utilizes "Giant Steps" changes on the blowing sections, which Mr. Blakey's groups were not likely to take on back in 1962.

The way that they do modern sorts of versions of Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge" and Chick Corea's "Windows" shows that they center in on that past but circle around it and try getting something new from it. In many ways they are more like a mid-period Wayne Shorter group updated for today. A subtle difference perhaps, but a difference nonetheless.

Chris Massey and the Nue Jazz Project is a straightahead band that does not rest on the past ways of getting everything moving. They are more restless and searching in their sound. That leads me to think that the band could be on the verge of further development.

In the meantime this is a fine set from a talent group of journeymen. Nice going!

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