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David Chesky - Primal Scream / Step Tempest

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Though the Chesky name is well-known in the recording industry for its groundbreaking audiophile label (started in 1978 by brothers Norman and David), I must admit I was mostly unaware of David Chesky's work as a composer and pianist.  One glance at his webpage (www.davidchesky.com) is enlightening, informing one of his classical endeavors, compositions for dance troupes,  children's ballets and various jazz projects dating back to the .  In 2013, Chesky introduced his latest band, a quintet known as Jazz in the New Harmonic (pictured below) featuring Billy Drummond (drums), Javon Jackson (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Peter Washington (bass) and Jeremy Pelt (trumpet).

The quintet's second CD, "Primal Scream" (Chesky Records) posits the band in the heart of the late 1950s "Kind of Blue" sound that led to the classic Miles Davis Quintet (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, and Ron Carter.  To the composer's credit, he is not imitating that music as much as channeling the mood.  The opening cut, "Check Point Charlie" places the music in that era and conjures up the classic Davis Lp cited above. Mesmerizing  pieces such as "Kill The Philharmonic" and "Quiet Desperation" have a trance-like quality due mostly to the airy and angular quality of the piano chords and the circular bass lines. Yet, on the first track mentioned (and throughout the program), Drummond supplies the fire that heats the music.  He kicks hard beneath Pelt's passionate solo and drops into a funky "boogaloo" for Jackson's playful tenor spotlight. The title of the CD might conjure images of Dr. Arthur Janov's controversial therapy practices of the mid-1960s; the track itself has great energy coming from the bass and drums plus sparkling solos from Jackson and Pelt but the highlight is the dream-like piano solo (cannot miss the classical inferences) over the powerful rhythm section. The closing cut, the highly rhythmical "Sleepless In New York", has a playful melody for saxophone plus muted trumpet and piano counterpoint.  Washington's bass lines dance alongside Drummond's elemental drumming (no frills, just the constancy of the rhythm). When Chesky steps out, he picks up on the playfulness of the previous soloists but also gets deep into the bass "groove."

"Jazz In The New Harmonic: Primal Scream" makes no bones about its debt to the music of the masters and makes a powerful statement about the need for jazz to "dance" again.  David Chesky, through his music and prose, states "we're a groove-based society", inviting all listeners to this darkly shaded yet funky experience.  Kudos to all involved!

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