Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Kazzrie Jaxen


Due to a couple of recent releases of late, I have been listening to Kazzrie Jaxen (formerly known as Liz Gorrill). For those of you unfamiliar with her work, you're in for a treat.

First up…. Callicoon Sessions (Candence Jazz Records CJR1243, 2013) by the The Kazzrie Jaxen Quartet with Charley Krachy (ts) Don Messina (b) Bill Chatin (d).

During the second half of 2009, I started playing with Don and Bill (along with Carol Liebowitz & Will Jhun) and they mentioned that the quartet had started playing together. In fact, "My Melancholy Baby" comes from the quartets' very first session together. The individual histories are much longer. Bill & Kazzrie go back to the early 70s, Charley & Kazzrie the late 70s (first recording together is from 1989), while Don & Bill have been playing together for about 30 years.

I feel these long standing relationships play an important role underpinning the eight standard tunes and one free improvisation. There is a casual, playful feel throughout the album, very much akin to old friends catching up.

"Foolin' Myself" somehow got lost amongst the shuffle and is seldom played these days. If you are looking to add some underplayed tunes to your repertoire this one is a gem.

Having heard Charley play "My Foolish Heart" live, I was keen to hear the quartets' interpretation - it didn't disappoint. Nobody over plays their hand - timely fills are added in the bass, piano accompaniment is supportive yet creative, swirling brushes and cymbals create a subtle wash and the melody is presented quite "straight" but with plenty of feeling (with out resulting to milking it). During the saxophone solo, the melody is never far away.

Contrast follows in "You Stepped Out Of A Dream." It kicks off with a  piano/drum duet of blurring lines, dense chords and crisp ride & snare that is full steam ahead.

The free improvisation "Callicoon" is made up of two parts "The River" & "The Train." The quartet move out of flowing pulse that is a feature of the album and break things up with rubato/free time and hinting at a shifting pulse.

Don gets a pretty sweet recorded sound from a DAT recorder and a single stereo microphone. He has recorded a number albums this way (the three BMC Trio discs, Jimmy Halperin's Cycle Logical and an album he and Bill made with Jon Easton, probably others too). Sometimes it makes me wonder why there can be so much fuss over studios and such.

I got my copy from CD Baby. It only arrived a couple of days ago but has already had multiple spins.

Of her two duets with guitarist Andy Fite I have been listening to Cosmic Comedy (New Artists Records 1012) - from a September 1990 concert at Greenwich House. These duets are excellent examples of the unlimited nature of tunes from the Great American Songbook. The two albums are full of surprising twists and turns, it feels like the music could go anywhere at anytime. The music goes places.

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