Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Marshall Gilkes, Sound Stories

We live in an age, musically and perhaps otherwise, where multiple, pluralistic stylistic trends and content development proceed on multiple sets of virtual rivers and tributaries, each subject to its own set of standards and criteria and none superseding the others.

Certainly that is happening in the music called jazz and its many relatives by birth or marriage. And for someone like me, who revels in multi-renaissances, it is an exciting and rewarding time to live. Paradoxically, it is also a time where musical giants and potential giants, along with their shorter but equally serious handmaidens, scuffle to live, a situation that we cannot discuss here, but is as real and is as disturbing as anything we all face.

The point right now is what kinds of flourishing we are witnessing. Yesterday we had an excellent avant big band led by trombonist Steve Swell; today we have an excellent small-group mainstream jazz recording by trombonist Marshall Gilkes, namely Sound Stories (Alternate Side 005).

Marshall Gilkes plays a lot of trombone, with hipness and taste, and nice tone. His running partner, the up-and-coming (or is it "there-and-coming"?) Donny McCaslin on tenor, does the same in his own way. The two together and separately have much to do with the success of this, Marshall's third album.

The piano-bass-drums team is the right combination to go with the two-horn team. Adam Birnbaum on piano (a name you may well know) is heat and finesse personified. Yasushi Nakamura and Eric Doob on bass and drums, respectively, give the music that kick it needs and at the same time swing the hell out of everything.

And the compositions, all by Marshall, are complicated, driving, kicking, odd-timed and even-timed goodies of a high order. He combines sophistication with soul and the band goes with that perfectly.

In the end this one is not something to be ignored or taken for granted. Gilkes is a trombonist of real stature, the band is excellent and the compositions fresh and exciting. It may be easy to miss this one. You should not. Get it if you like new bone and rather great music for the quintet of today.

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