(4 / 5)
This is perhaps an album for those who may have uttered those immortal words at some stage; “Man, I really cannot get in to jazz.” This is for them and for those, like me, who really CAN get in to jazz. It straddles many genres with ease.
Chicago saxophonist Chris Green has got it all going on, on his latest album, “Boundary Issues”, his eighth release with the quartet he formed back in 2005 with pianist Damian Spinosa, bassist Marc Piane and drummer Steve Corley joining in 2011.
Joining the core quartet as guests on several tracks are saxophonist Marqueal Jordan, known for his work with smooth jazz star Brian Culbertson; percussionist JoVia Armstrong, who’s played with Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble and JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound; guitarist Isaiah Sharkey, a member of D’Angelo’s band; and vocalist Julio Davis (aka DJ WLS).
Lots of soulful performances and grooves truly nailed across these 10 impressive cuts, exploring way beyond jazz boundaries, hence the title. Before 44-year-old Greene discovered the likes of jazz greats John Coltrane and Miles Davis when he was 17 years old, he was all about the music of Prince, Public Enemy and Babyface, et al. An MTV enthusiast back then, glued to the screen to check out the new music videos from all his pop heroes, espcieally Michael Jackson. His Mother was blasting him with Motown at her monthly card parties, while his Dad played a lot of funk, soul and disco around the house. Chris soaked it all up and nods to it all on his playing and his compositions some years later. As a side-man he has worked with artists as diverse as The Temptations and Sheena Easton.
An eclectic mix of songs here, including three Greene originals, and one each from Marc Piane and Damian Espinosa. There’s perfect-fit covers of Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream”, Kenny Kirkland’s “Dienda”, the wonderful Yellowjackets track “Summer Song”, and the rarely covered Billy Strayhorn tune “Day Dream”.
On previous records, Chris has delivered his interpretation on diverse material from the likes of Madonna, Coltrane, Sting and Mingus. Mr Geene likes to do things differently and say “Pah!” to convention. Hence on track three here, he gives a reggae vibe to Silver’s “Nica’s Dream”, an idea he had while listening to music in the shower.
He plays mainly tenor here, taking up the soprano for the ballads. The perfect soundtrack to the imminent summer, if we get one this year! There’s an innate sense of joy, of happiness, of ‘glad to be alive’ and ‘glad to be playing this music for y’all’ on this record. Acres of chemistry between the band and Greene. No more than two or three takes for each song, back to old school modus operandi.
Of the guests here; percussionist JoVia Armstrong plays on “Nica’s Dream” and “Summer Song”, Isaiah Sharkey delivers guitar on “Nica’s Dream” and “Blues for Dr. Fear”, and tenor man Marqueal battles with Chris on the penultimate track, “The Crossover Appeal,” where it is not easy to spot which is which. The score: A draw! I love how these cool cats can sit on a groove and make it interesting at the same time, and their grasp of tricky time signatures is to admire. Drummer Corley is a master of timekeeping, for sure.
Names such as Shorter, Marsalis, Brecker and Grover Washington Jr. came to mind while listening to Greene’s skilful playing. This mix of material, styles, torn up jazz rule book and risk-taking should, if justice prevails, win this outfit a wider audience and attract man accolades and much credit. Very nice job.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’