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Ben Allison is a leader. He's a natural at pushing the envelope whether it's in his bass work, in his composing, or in the way he approaches music itself. He's widely regarded to be one of the most original voices in modern jazz, a strong organizational force on the New York City music scene, and an advocate for artist empowerment. Once again fronting the exceptional Medicine Wheel, Allison returns with the wonderful 'Buzz' CD.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The more I listen to Ben Allison's music, the more I think of Charles Mingus. Well, he is a very advanced bass player with sharp composition skills, so the resemblance is obvious. But there is also a textural similarity, the occasional two tenors and especially the recent addition of trombone in the ensemble plus the contrasting dark and light nature of the tunes keeps reminding me of "Ah Um", one of my favorite albums. So if you like that period of Mingus then you will most probably like this album.
Overall, great music from a group of creative individuals. I am looking forward to their next project.
Actually, it wouldn't even be too far over the top to drop the word "jazz" and just declare them the best BAND on the planet.
You see, these boys have learned how to play smart, sophisticated, accessible, simple/complex, rhythmically challenging, beautiful music. Yes, it probably comes closest to jazz, it'll be filed in the jazz section, but it has affinities with lots of other styles, including world jazz ("Mauritania," "Buzz"), soul/funk jazz ("Green Al"), pop jazz ("Across the Universe"), chamber jazz ("Erato"), and sometimes all these at once ("R & B Fantasy").
The core of this band (leader Allison, bass; Michael Blake, ts & ss; Ted Nash, ts & flute; and Frank Kimbrough, piano) has been playing together for about a decade, as well as playing on each other's solo projects--and it shows. They mesh and converse with almost eerie serendipity. Michael Sarin, a great and very coloristic drummer, has taken over for the equally wonderful Jeff Ballard, and Clark Gayton, a newcomer, plays marvelous trombone and bass trombone. Both fit in seamlessly.
This music comes out of the 12-year-old Jazz Composers Collective, which "is dedicated to new music and building audiences for jazz" (according to Ben Allison's liner notes). Any recording from these folks is worth checking out; indeed, they've been at the very forefront of progressive yet listenable jazz for more than a decade. And they just keep getting better.
A great band at the absolute top of their form.
A plethora of styles abound on bassist and leader Ben Allison's new album. There are up-tempo cookers, sumptuous ballads and world music fusions, but they never drift into the sort of eclectic genre hoping that ruins many a similar effort. Allison's writing is very distinct and that comes across very strongly in these pieces. Playing music that is both beautiful and intense is not easy, yet for this ensemble it almost seems like second nature.
A key point can be made with the closing track, a cover of the Beatles tune Across the Universe. Allison has gone and converted this familiar tune into a fuge. The melody is stated by the horns, accompanied by the rhythm section and repeated, with minor melodic variations, over and over again. Does this make it jazz? Or is it some sort of classical hybrid? Or is it instrumental rock? It doesn't matter, it's simply gorgeous. It is one of the few Beatles covers performed by a jazz ensemble I've ever wanted to hear more than once. And that is a rare treat indeed.