Dawn Clement Tandem
On her latest release, Tandem, Seattle-based pianist Dawn Clement explores the on-the-edge vulnerability of the duo, in intimate conversations with some of her closest musical allies over the past 20 years. She is joined by legendary trombonist Julian Priester, saxophonist Mark Taylor, drummer extraordinaire Matt Wilson, bassist Michael Glynn, and transcendent vocalist Johnaye Kendrick.
With Priester, the mood is pensive, playful, free. On “Improvisation #3,” Priester and Clement stretch boundaries, explore pure soundscapes in an edgy solitude. “That’s what we do, Priester and I,” says Clement.
Brad Shepik’s composition, “Sugar Cliff,” is covered brilliantly by Clement and alto saxophonist, Mark Taylor. Clement blends perfect vocal phrasing and stunning articulation on piano with Taylor’s freely melodic playing. Clement clearly sees piano and voice as one instrument here, and the result is one of uncommon emotional sincerity and beauty.
“I Think of You” features vocal artist Johnaye Kendrick, who doubles on harmonium. Intertwining melodies and harmonies resonate between the two voices and the winding muscular playing of Clement. Often overshadowed by the brilliance of her piano playing, Clement’s vocal prowess reveals perfect intonation and an honesty that is joyful and hopeful.
The idea of piano and drums in duet may seem unusual, but then again, what is not unusual and wonderful about drummer Matt Wilson? On their complete deconstruction of Thelonious Monk’s “Bemsha Swing,” Clement personifies Monk’s carefree playfulness in some sort of perfect cadence of intuition that somehow finds its way through, leaving along the way a trove of special moments.
In selecting a vocal-based duet with bassist Michael Glynn of the standard “My Ideal,” Clement makes a statement of delicacy and emotional vulnerability, grounded in the intimate phrasings of Glynn. It sums up the spirit of Tandemneatly. As Clement states in words and spirit, “When you trust each other, anything can happen.”
Syrinx Effect A Sky You Could Strike a Match On
Syrinx Effect is a Seattle-based duo that utilizes looping, distortion pedals, and electronics to create sonic landscapes of sound. Solos are beautifully played by soprano saxophonist Kate Olson and trombonist Naomi Moon Siegel. The duo evolved from the renowned Racer Sessions, a weekly improv jam session in Seattle.
Through their first two recordings, and by live performances including the 2017 Earshot Jazz Festival, Syrinx Effect has been somewhat cast as an avant-garde affair. On A Sky You Could Strike a Match On, the duo offers folk melodies, baroque-like interludes, a New Orleans romp, and a haunting melody so dense it evokes visual imagery.
Olson’s “The Bank Robber Song” is a tempo-changing New Orleans romp, bouncing between a second-line march, a mounting ambient frenzy, and a dense, lazy stretch of the blues. The solos are jubilant, tapping deeply into the jazz roots of both musicians. Drummer Eric Eagle enters the fray, while both Olson and Siegel play acoustically, without electronic assistance. There is an organic, free-flowing resonance about the piece that is joyful and playful, the acoustic approach allowing more rhythmic elasticity.
Siegel’s “Redwood Cry” expresses the natural echoplex of sound that is a forest of tall trees, the multiplicity of ambient sounds bouncing between giant redwoods, captured within an aerodynamic canopy. Siegel’s use of pedals is dynamic, creating a broad switchback for melodic improvisation.
Both Olson and Siegel solo with ardent tonality, and expansive imagination. The varied landscape of sound they create to serve harmonically facilitates the considerable talents of both soloists to draw from roots in classical and jazz forms, from their fascination with simpler folk melodies, and the ultimate tie-in to an abstract view of the blues.
Sundae + Mr. Goessl When You’re Smiling
Perhaps because they are sovital, standards are often jazz’s Achilles’ heel: if poorly interpreted, then you’re unfaithful to tradition; if too plainly, then you lack personality.
Voted Best Jazz Act of 2017 by Seattle Weekly, Sundae + Mr. Goessl—our local Les Paul-Mary Ford combo of award-winning vocalist Kate Voss and tireless guitarist Jason Goessl—strikes the perfect balance between tradition and inspiration in their fifth release, When You’re Smiling.
The album’s pared-down treatment of such classics like “My Blue Heaven” and “Bye Bye Blues” doesn’t yearn nostalgically for the sound of a studio past, but channels the seamless musicianship and well-turned performances of the early studio era. (Though “standards” doesn’t exclude gems like Sonny Bono’s spy-film nugget “Bang Bang.”)
Goessl, of course, knows the guitar from Freddie Green to Grant Green, audible, for example, when he vaunts his impressive pedal point arrangement of “Embraceable You.” Voss’s voice, too, remains unaffected while consistently inventive: her careful attention to intonation, such as her unexpected coloring of vowels, itself retunes familiar expressions.
When You’re Smiling is music that anybody with two ears can appreciate, brimming with bright optimism and warm expression. Though also accompanied by percussionists Adrian Van Batenburg and Sam Esecson, Voss and Goessl especially shine when their chemistry as a duo takes center stage, such as on “S’wonderful,” recovering the many shades of affection and passion within these songs, and, apparently, between the music of these two performers as well.
Birch Pereira & the Gin Joints Western Soul
Somewhere in the dusty crossroads between the southern cradle of the blues and the ballrooms of music city wanders Birch Pereira: bass producer, composer, teacher, and mastermind of Birch Pereira & the Gin Joints, whose sophomore release Western Soul is out this March. The Gin Joints’ latest effort further expands the jumped-up jukebox sound of 2016’s Dream Man, Golden Ear Award-winner for Northwest Jazz Recording of the Year.
Back again is Pereira’s own “Million Dollar Quartet”: guitarist Jason Goessl, drummer Adrian Van Batenburg (alternating with David Bush), lead guitarist Daniel Rainard, and trumpeter Raymond Larsen.
Larsen, along with Jacob Zimmerman on clarinet, really play “hot” on swing numbers like “A Love I Can’t Explain.” Here, Rainard runs like Django himself, while Goessl bends strings and rumbles like a true trucker on Sun Records-inspired tunes like the genius “I Don’t like I Did Before,” where listeners can also savor Van Batenburg’s tricky but firm brush work. Contributions by saxophonists Saul Cline and Kate Olson, vocalists Jimmie Herrod and Kate Voss, organist Joe Doria, and others, complete the Gin Joints’ high-level studio ensemble.
Since Dream Man, Pereira has found himself more as a songwriter, hemming the dress of Tin Pan Alley sentiment to a modern cut, as when contemplating the common whims of weather, relationships, and age on the redeeming triplet-punch ballad “Could it be Something Else.” Though his urbane, almost introverted takes on standards like “St. James Infirmary”—staged by the album’s roomy production—have their own hazy shade of blue.
Rather than pure novelties, the various 45 rpm pictures of the Gin Joints, whether washed by mournful country swells (as on the finale “If You Ever Change Your Mind”) or painted with palm tree montuno figures (as on “Carioca”) all restate the positive ideals and attitudes of roots music that, in their own way, have made silver-tongued musicians such as Pereira so inspired to begin with.
CD Release Party!
Sunday, March 11, 7:30pm @ Triple Door
Join Birch Pereira & the Gin Joins and Sundae + Mr. Goessl on March 11 for a double album release celebration at the Triple Door! Tickets are $20 advance/ $25 day of show and are available at thetripledoor.net.