Paul Motian/Chris Potter/Jason Moran

Lost In A Dream (ECM Records)

Drummer Motian, still legendary and intellectually impish, continues to make unpredictable music. “Lost In A Dream” documents a splendid February 2009 gig at the Village Vanguard with a fresh trio featuring a long-time partner saxophonist Chris Potter and a newer collaborator, pianist Jason Moran, on a set of ballads and freer musical explorations. The album is well titled since its pensive compositions evolve and mutate continuously, moving from chamber jazz to solos with classical shadings. Potter’s tenor often takes flight to hover and float over Motian’s idiosyncratic rhythms and Moran’s chords swirl in eddies of sound.

Their intergenerational relationship is remarkable — tunes like “Casino,” “Blue Midnight” and “Be Careful My Heart” coalesce around moods rather than structure and towards the end, on “Drum Music,” “Abacus” and “Cathedral Song,” the trio’s improvisation flutters and breaks free, notes fly and fall where they may and the audience reaction finally moves from polite appreciation to ecstatic approval. 

The Ian Carey Quintet

Contextualizin’ (Kabocha Records)

         West Coast trumpeter, Ian Carey, might also be described as a short story writer because his songs are uniquely narrative in form. Carey, who in tone and spirit resembles Art Farmer, writes tunes that are inquisitive and probing – they go somewhere — and his fine band stands at the ready as Carey’s imagination and musicality leads the way. On trumpet or flugelhorn he casts a warm patina over eight original compositions and one cover, “Just Friends,” that illustrates the organic sounding rapport Carey shares with alto saxophonist Evan Francis, pianist Adam Shulman, bassist Fred Rudolph and drummer Jon Arkin.

          As a composer, Carey encourages thoughtful interplay. Witness the tension between Carey and pianist Shulman on the moody “Questions” and further in, where Francis’ alto explores pathways of sound as if in a hedge maze, venturing one way then another all the while framed by the bassist and drummer. The most rewarding tune, “Leap Year” has a modern texture provided by Shulman on Fender Rhodes, and it grabs your ear with its loping, waltz-like structure. But start with the title tune, with its confident theme and front-line horns, because it exemplifies Carey’s natural ability to express ideas that percolate with emotion and by its conclusion, you’ll feel a satisfying release that leaves you anticipating the next tale he will tell. 

The Wayne Brasel Quartet

“If You Would Dance” (BraJazz Records)
On this significant recording, jazz guitarist Wayne Brasel sweeps aside any hint of sentimentality on an evocative album of lovely, starry-eyed tunes played with a keen sense of swing thanks to a dream band – the superb drummer Peter Erskine, lyrical pianist Alan Pasqua and Tom Warrington on acoustic bass. Standout moments abound on this honest, gentle recording like the finger-popping “Celebration” that chugs along over Erskine’s cymbal rides, the Brazilian tinged “Elias” (named for Erskine’s peer, pianist Eliane Elias) and “Oleo de Mujer con Sombrero,” set against a subtle background of percussion, sensitive brushes and with another fine solo from Pasqua. The nine tracks have a cinematic feel and rustic tunes like “Aberdeen” and “A Heart On Fire” sound as if they were composed for the twilight hour, that abbreviated space of time where the sun is setting in a western sky and the landscape is bathed in glowing hues of reds and yellows. 
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