Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Joel Frahm Quartet’s Live at Smalls

Small’s Live, the label associated with the Greenwich Village Jazz venue Small’s has issued several new CDs, one of which is Joel Frahm Quartet’s Live at Smalls. Tenor saxophonist Frahm is joined by guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Otis Brown III (although the cover lists him as playing piano, he is pictured behind his drum set.

Recorded the weekend of February 28 and March 1, 2011, the album consists of five Frahm originals and interpretations of Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge and Charlie Parker’s Steeplechase. I have been impressed by what I have heard by him in the past and was not surprised by the blues-drenched opener Short Rack that is in the spirit of some of the great instrumentals by the likes of Hal ‘Cornbread’ Singer and King Curtis with Rosenwinkel a nice solo foil for Frahm’s strong blues tenor.

It was some varied music at Smalls that weekend with interesting compositions such as A Little Extra with an unusual time signature followed by the groove inflected What’s You Beat? that includes some surprising twists and turns as the performance unfolds with Rosenwinkel’s guitar outstanding on this. Chelsea Bridge features some lovely playing from Frahm and the closing rendition of Steeplechase gives it a imaginative arrangement with Rosenwinkel opening up with an discursive solo followed by the leader’s spirited exploration of the theme.

As typical with Smalls Live recordings, sound in quite good and enhanced by the simple presentation with the black and white photography of Michelle Watt who also designed the cover in the attractive format of recordings on the label. This is another excellent album of contemporary jazz performances. Like other recordings in this series, it likely will have some look forward to visiting Small’s when in New York City.

This was a purchase. Here is Joel Frahm among a group performing at Small's.

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