Beyond Moments & Time is a reflection on the styles and concepts that were thriving in the mid-20th century jazz scenes. Here we find Daniel Guggenheim and his aiding quartet exploring a lot of moods and textures in this album that are interpreted in the variances of bebop, relaxing 'cool' tempos, modal tendencies, and even some mild experimental exercises for added excitement. Musically, Beyond Moments & Time comprises of a typical ensemble of instrumentalists, featuring musicians such as; pianist Peter Madsen, bassist Sean Smith, drummer Devin Gray, and of course lead composer, saxophonist Daniel Guggenheim. This performance is certainly nothing groundbreaking at this point in jazz, but it is a spectacle well embellished with a magnetizing allure that leaves the listener engrossed by every sound that emanates from the fingers and mouths of each musician.
The album opens with "Mystery In Casablanca", which is quite possibly the highlight of this whole album. It's a very compelling piece, though without being overly extravagant in nature. "Mystery In Casablanca" borrows on the philosophies of cool jazz and the eastern aesthetics from the works of Yusef Lateef to emphasize on establishing a calming atmosphere more than the flaunts of energetic and technical dexterity of typical bebop. Sean Smith starts off the piece with some sporadic notes on the bass, there's nothing all that theatrical about them though, he's just merely exploring the ranges of his bass with a few touches of the strings to set up the mood. The other instruments soon join in on his temperate rhythmic pace, and the music flourishes into an exquisitely prolific display. There is a mesmerizing level of communication happening in this performance, absolutely every element in this song is composed in such a harmonious fashion that it's almost overwhelming to the senses. Sean Smith and Devin Gray keep the gentle flow going along in the background, which allows Peter Madsen and Daniel Guggenheim to direct the music into elegant melodies. The theme that Daniel Guggenheim exercises on his saxophone throughout the piece, for example, has a majestic beauty to its sound. It's exquisite and infectiously memorable. The solo segments are also another impressive element in "Mystery In Casablanca", and though Daniel Guggenheim certainly shines with his exhibitions of innovation and fluidity, pianist Peter Madsen certainly gets his own well-deserved moments in the spotlight also. During the climactic portions of the solo movement, Peter Madsen begins to deploy some very dynamic showmanship. Though he improvises at his own pace, alternating from stunning ostinato patterns to vivacious solo work, he never manages to stray too far from the song's mellow attitude.
Most of the pieces in the album tend to follow a similar agenda as "Mystery In Casablanca", in the sense that they focus a lot on expressing certain moods and conjuring up a style that compliments a lounge type of atmosphere. Though there are a handful of moments when the quartet spice things up and relieve themselves from the burdens of harmonic restrain to dwell into collective improvisation. "Frantic Journey", for example, demonstrates a rather avant-garde approach to the music. Devin Gray eruptively breaks out into some bombastic percussive displays, which serve as a lead for the other musicians to follow. This is definitely Devin Gray's song, because he's throwing out some rhythmic patterns with such unbridled ferocity that it will no doubt bring the techniques of musicians like Tony Williams to mind. This is a very intense performance because we see the quartet constantly switching back and forth from a conventional structure to an anarchical exhibition. And what I mean by that is that there are both moments when the rhythmic and lead instruments operate in a complimentary fashion, as well as times when they completely deviate from that set to construct polytempic structures and waves of instinctive impromptu maneuvering. "Love's Lost Way" and the closing piece, "Look Out the Window", are kind of the return to sensuous melodic flow. They're both very soothing numbers that really get inside your consciousness, especially "Love's Lost Way". It has a pensive spaciousness to it that can really consume you within its emotional allure. "Toasted" is another major highlight to be found here, and it's one that balances the energy found in "Frantic Journey" with the harmonic framework of the mellower songs, to formulate a pure, unadulterated hard-bop performance. Aside from the exhilarating drum patterns that Sean Smith generates in "Toasted", Peter Madsen's piano movements steal the spotlight yet again with a brilliant sequence of alternating shifts and stellar soloing.
Overall, I must say that Beyond Moments & Time is definitely a jazz man's album. It's expressive, exciting, and highly elaborate. There's a lot of phenomenal performances to be found here, each one offering their own witty grooves and 'blue' moods so as to offer a sense of variety to choose from. The musicianship here is beyond impressive and executed with such expertise, no matter what agenda they're operating on. It's indeed a very adventurous album, and though it emphasizes in providing melodies that are meant to be as accessible as possible, Daniel Guggenheim and his quartet regularly squeeze in some spaces for inspired improvisations. I recommend this album wholeheartedly to anyone looking for quality modern jazz. There's no obscure concepts to comprehend on this one, just pure melody flowing out for instant gratification.
Here's some recommended tracks:
"Mystery In Casablancas" (Notice how I didn't shut up about it)
"Love's Lost Way"
"Toasted" (Didn't talk about this one, should have though because it's a really lively one)
so is this gonna be one of the two jazz albums that every sputnik user listens to this year? in 2012 we had that Polish jam and BBNG2.
I doubt it. This is a different style altogether. Those other 2 albums fuse modern genres with jazz so that's what made them more appealing here I guess. This is more 'traditional' jazz, and I dont know how many people are willing to look into it. It's good though, and I hope others like it because surprisingly no other sites have reviewed it or given it any attention.
I really wish they would but the reviewers name next to the actual review on the front page in the staff review section. I almost missed this! Def gotta hear.
"exploring a lot of moods and textures in this album that are interpreted in the variances of bebop, relaxing 'cool' tempos, modal tendencies, and even some mild experimental exercises for added excitement."
sounds like something I'd prolly dig.
"It's exquisite and infectiously memorable."
Being memorable sounds like feat. but if pulled off just right is truly a delight, especially for jazz which isn't always memorable.
Great review. I'm gonna have to steal some your descriptive phrases when I decide to review from jazz I have. And many I do have; free, from bandcamp.
It depends, I guess. I tend to review stuff that I like, for example my reviews are always in the 3.5 or higher rating scale.
I'm NOT a jazz 'expert', or for that matter a music 'expert', by any means. I just listen to a lot of it and have gained some knowledge from those experiences. The way that I critique jazz works on 2 ways- the personal level- i.e. was I entertained, did the moods/themes/technical work strike me in any way. And musical dexterity- i.e. were the notes executed well, did the progressions feel 'natural' (especially the improvs), and also how does it live up to its associated subgenres, etc.
Honestly, it's not all that different from critiquing other genres, but jazz does require more attention because everything kind of happens so quickly and what is delivered is sometimes quite abundant- and it does take more skill to play jazz than most genres. Certain genres like bop or at times fusion are easy to talk about because they're pretty standard at times- starts off with an intro, usually a theme that shows the chords for the solos that will appear, then that goes to the extended solo segments, then the finale (sometimes a reprise of intro). Free jazz is definitely the hardest to talk about because its pure improv and people always debate whether those jams are good or bad.
I guess it just comes down to instinct- how did you 'feel' about the album, because it's all opinions nothing we say as reviewers is concrete and should never be taken as such, it's just a glorified opinion. Take Kind Of Blue for example- everyone loves that album and give it a full 5 (even those who havent heard it), but between you and me, I hardly think its Miles' best work. It's revolutionary, helped put modal on the map, and I respect it but it's not one I can say I listen to constantly.
(Sorry for the tl;dr response. It's late where I am, and I tend to ramble on when I'm tired.)
any other jazz recs from this year? Jazz is one of the genres that I have trouble keeping up with throughout the year.
Try allboutjazz.com for good recs - they have a new releases section, which sometimes has older albums too for strange reasons, but they cover some essential stuff. They dont tell you what it sounds like, so you'll have to do some investigating with whichever catches your eye. Still, that's where I go to keep up with albums, there could be better ones out there though. Hope that helps.