Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Billy Mintz - Ugly Beautiful (Thirteenth Note, 2017)

Drummer and composer Billy Mintz develops a free-wheeling double album in the company of John Gross on tenor saxophone, Tony Malaby on tenor and soprano saxophones, Roberta Piket on piano and keyboards and Hilliard Greene on bass. They cover a wide range of material from soul jazz to bop and free improvisation. "Angels" and "Vietnam" open the album on a serious note, moving from a spiritual jazz song to a sombre ballad. Things develop in a faster direction on "Dit," which has an angular melody that swings hard as the saxophones that swagger over frenetic drumming and strong vibrant piano. The music is propelled forward while cutting to a subtle piano trio section toward the end. "Flight" and "Flight (Ballad)" are two sides of the same coin, with the former establishing a classy and nicely mannered jazz sound, while the latter opening things further with a spare and spacious caress. "Cannonball" develops some storming hard bop with crisp drumming and some fine saxophone textures. The music stretches out further with lengthy tracks like "Shmear" giving the leader space for a interesting solo and some dynamic shifts in tone and and and alternate take of "Dit" which moves from an emphatic statement of the melody with cascading variations thereof. The second disc is even more expansive with tracks such as "Love and Beauty" and "Ugly Beautiful" which are lengthy improvised performances, growing from a graceful piano based ballad to a strong to a rippling jazz performance with taut saxophone and rhythm. The group ends the album with an extended version of "Cannonball" that allows Picket to develop a deep organ groove and the saxophones to stretch out accordingly. There is a lot of music to digest on this album, but it is quite worthwhile, covering a wide range of jazz styles with class and integrity. Ugly Beautiful -

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