Sunday, April 18, 2021

Gary Bartz - JID006 (Jazz Is Dead, 2021)

Alto saxophonist Gary Bartz six decade career at the forefront of spiritual jazz, soul jazz, post bop jazz and fusion has led him to be on of the revered elders of a new generation of musicians. So it made perfect sense for Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad to invite him to take part in the evolving Jazz Is Dead project where young players meet master musicians in the act of creation. The use of electronics and fusion textures calls back to to some of the great albums Bartz made for Milestone in the early 1960's. His tone has softened a bit with age, but it fits in well with with breezy synths and glistening background sounds used on this album. He has lost none of his gift for melody and improvisation, bringing a fresh look to everything he touches. "Spiritual Ideation" nods to the spiritual jazz of the past, but is a product completely of the present with modern electronics meeting up with the leader's saxophone. Some funky bass touches come to the fore on "Visions of Love" and vocals are added to the mix, filling things out and giving the music a wide open sound as the they develop from the edges with the saxophone in the center. "Black and Brown" uses more urgent saxophone and drumming to develop a faster paced tune with fender rhodes framing the action, while the core band plays really tight, even as electronics swirl around them, they stay the course, with a propulsive full band improvisation. Bartz brings a soft and light tone to "Day By Day" along side a crisp drum pattern,  strong bass and tones of electronics. The vocals return again to fill the available space, a wordless stream with some lyrics as well, leading to a sense of gentle peace. "Distant Mode" pushes hard from the bass and drums, as electric piano and saxophone build in and complete the circuit, giving the proceedings a dynamic sensibility that explodes with bursts of further electronic sound. Bartz is hardly overwhelmed, pacing his playing nicely regardless of the mayhem, before the track suddenly fades. Nice bass playing and crisp drums open "The Message," developing a very interesting rhythm for Bartz to interact with, and this builds to a fine patient performance, with bursts of synth and electronics, filling out the soundscape, Finally, "Soulsea" closes out the album with heavy bass and drums, edging Bartz's saxophone forward with a heavy footprint, creating a dep groove including electric keyboard before a quick ending. This album worked quite well, it is wonderful to hear Gary Bartz and this unique setting suits him well, with everyone taking an open minded approach, leading to a successful recording. Gary Bartz JID006 -

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