Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Opus 5 - Introducing Opus 5 (Criss Cross, 2011)

On January 27, 2011, five veterans of the Mingus Big Band, and heavy-hitters on the mainstream jazz scene in their own right met to record an album under the collective name Opus 5. The band consists of Seamus Blake on tenor saxophone, Alex Sipiagin on trumpet and flugelhorn, David Kikoski on electric and acoustic piano, Donald Edwards on drums and Boris Kozlov on bass. The group channels the hard-bop giants like Art Blakey and pre-electric Miles Davis, but brings a thoroughly modern sensibility to the proceedings. The opening track, “Think of Me,” begins at a medium tempo with multiple horns playing over a curved bed of electric piano. A round-robin series of solo are taken with Blake building a strong statement to increase the pace. Kikoski’s textures on the Fender Rhodes piano and the rolling drumwork of Edwards add depth and breadth to the music. “Tallysman” opens with fast horns harmonizing together, yielding to a spitfire trumpet solo with deep drum support. Strong, full bodied piano leads into a full band conclusion. Vibrant piano accompaniment sets the stage for the horns to harmonize on “Baker’s Dozen.” Seamus Blake unleashes a lengthy, well constructed saxophone solo, making way for an unaccompanied piano feature before the full band returns to the melody. “Ton to Tom” slows things down to a ballad tempo, featuring lush tenor saxophone and subtle brushes. Blake develops a lonely late-night feel to his ballad playing, while Sipiagin glides in with washes of brass leading to a gentle swirl of the horns intertwining. Swinging hard-bop and Fender Rhodes piano return on “Nostalgia in Time” with the trumpet breaking out fast and strong and a nice saxophone building over a foundation of electric piano and rhythm, before the band builds back up to a peak for a strong finish. This is a well done and empathetic collaborative project, egos are kept in check and all energy is driven toward the service of the music, which is performed with crisp enthusiasm. Definitely an album for mainstream jazz fans to keep an eye out for. Introducing Opus 5 -

Send comments to Tim.