Monday, April 29, 2013

Chris Massey & the NJP, Whosoever

Mainstream jazz has been at a crossroads for many years now. Some of it is troublesome to me because it does not have the fire, passion or conviction for the forms it takes on. The players in question seemingly have dutifully learned the changes to a bunch of standard jazz and songbook works and simply played over them according to a set of rulebook guidelines, it seems, and in those cases, there is a mannerist tendency that doesn't always make for good listening, or original, good jazz.

Drummer Chris Massey and his NJP do not have that problem. They play a firy later Blue Note era form of mainstream with definite conviction and skill. This is on their album Whosoever (Power Cosmic 8131).

Massey writes very good originals and they form the centerpiece to the disk. The band also tackles standards like "Old Devil Moon," jazz evergreens like "Giant Steps" and things less played these days too, like Roland Kirk's "Pedal Up." And then there are some newer jazz compositions by others, notably one by Jeff "Tain" Watt.

All this works because the band has gotten inside the music and lived it--pianist Willerm Delisfort with a bit of a Tyneresque feel in the left hand and good solo instincts, Chris Taleo with a solid foundational bass anchorage, the one-two punch of front liners Adam Larson on tenor and soprano, with a Trane-and-after sensibility that is evolved without sounding like the flavor of the day, and trumpetist Benny Benack III with a brass-proud exuberance and extroversion that fits the style to perfection.

Chris Massey has a great swinging time-role to fill which he does with distinction. His solo shots will surprise and please you, too.

What's especially important is that the music comes at you as the real thing. There is no feeling that you are eating yesterday's mashed potatoes reheated, so to speak.

And so it makes for great listening.

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