Sunday, July 19, 2015

Larry Newcomb Quartet: “Live Intentionally!” (2015) CD Review

Larry Newcomb is a seriously talented jazz guitarist (who also teaches guitar). Live Intentionally, the new album from Larry Newcomb Quartet, was recorded live in the studio, without overdubs. The tracks here are a mix of covers and original compositions, all arranged by Larry Newcomb. The original material is so strong that it fits right in with classics by Kern and Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart, and even Charlie Parker. I’m particularly fond of “Thanks Jack!” There is a great rhythm to the album, and even the solos flow organically from the main structure. Take, for example, the bass solo on “Sure Thing.” It feels natural, instead of feeling like the result of someone saying, “Okay, your turn to solo.” The quartet is Larry Newcomb on guitar, Eric Olsen on piano, Dmitri Kolesnik on bass and Jimmy Madison on drums. And it is a quartet, with each member contributing equally, rather than three musicians backing one guy.

The album opens with a bright, fun rendition of “Be My Love,” written by Nicolas Brodsky (often spelled Brodszky) and Sammy Cahn. This song was originally recorded by Mario Lanza, and also sung by Placido Domingo, but I actually prefer this instrumental version. In addition to some sweet work on guitar, there are wonderful lead spots by Eric Olsen on piano and Dmitri Kolesnik on bass. It’s followed by “All The Things You Are,” a song written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II for the 1939 musical Very Warm For May. It begins with a kind of playful piano solo, with some nice little touches on guitar, and has a sweet groove throughout.

The CD then gets into the original material. There are three tracks written by Larry Newcomb, all placed together on the CD. The first, “Thanks Jack!,” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It has such a joyous vibe. And then “Sure Thing” has a kind of cool, even sly vibe, which I really like. This music just makes me feel good. “Instant Water,” the third original composition, begins with some delightful, playful work on guitar. It feels like the guitar itself is smiling. And I love the piano lead, which really takes over the track, as well as those brief, but wonderful, drum solo spots.

“Olhos De Gato” is an interesting composition by Carla Bley, and recorded by Gary Burton in 1973 and by Paul Bley in 1992. This is a more introspective and mellow track than the others on this CD. Things then get decidedly more lively with a rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave,” the piano taking the first lead. This track is hopping, and I’m definitely into it. I actually wish it went on a bit longer.

The CD then concludes with two popular tunes, “Stardust” and “Have You Met Miss Jones?” “Stardust” has been recorded by an incredible amount of artists over the years, from Bing Crosby to Willie Nelson, and it always seems effective. This version features some wonderful work on piano by Eric Olsen. It was written by Hoagy Carmichael. “Have You Met Miss Jones,” by Richard Rodgers (on the back of the case misspelled as “Rogers”) and Lorenz Hart, has also been recorded by a lot of artists over the years. It was composed for the musical I’d Rather Be Right. This is a peppy version, to leave you feeling good, and features a wonderful bass solo by Dmitri Kolesnik.

CD Track List
  1. Be My Love
  2. All The Things You Are
  3. Thanks Jack!
  4. Sure Thing
  5. Instant Water
  6. Olhos De Gato
  7. Au Privave
  8. Stardust
  9. Have You Met Miss Jones? 
Live Intentionally! is scheduled to be released September 4, 2015 on Essential Messenger Records.

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