Jon Faddis “Teranga” [Koch Records]

A Joyful Shared Conversation
 

 

                                

“As far as playing jazz, no other art form, other than conversation, can give the satisfaction of spontaneous interaction.” Stan Getz 

“They call it soul jazz. All jazz is soul jazz, though. I mean, that’s what jazz is, is soul. It’s what music should be.” Joey DeFrancesco

The art of connection and the equal sharing of improvisation and conversation lies at the heart of trumpeter Jon Faddis and his quartet’s newest gem of a recording, “Teranga.” It is fitting that “Teranga” is a word from Senegalese that means “hospitality, brotherhood and sharing.” I was first turned on to this new recording when reading a recent review in The Stereo Times of the Shatki Hallograph Soundfield Optimizers by Clement Perry and Don Shalis in which they described how Faddis joined in a meeting of the Gotham Audio Society last February, sharing copies of “Teranga” and some of his “famous high notes” with the attendees. Being not very familiar with Faddis’ writing or performances, I literally came upon “Teranga” as a casual eavesdropper to his fresh conversation and compositions. With its quality of Teranga, this recording invited me in immediately with its sinuous, soulful lines of conversation and partnership amongst its gifted musicians. As I continue to explore this recording, I lean in to hear every note of the continuing dialog between its talented players, not wanting to miss a beat or turn of creative phrase.

The essence of creative conversation that lies at the heart of all great jazz is fully realized in “Teranga,” starting off with Faddis’ duet with guitarist Russell Malone on the cut, “Laureyn.” This quiet, swinging duet highlights the prowess of these two virtuoso players, forging a shared bond of simple melody and casual improv. The relaxed, informal quality to Faddis’ rounded tone, his staccato notes and piercing highs are a joy to follow. Faddis takes off on a journey that leads to swinging, blissful territory, accompanied by Malone’s percussive sideshow. Back and forth they weave, from a gentle bossa melody to a touch of the blues. This cut also highlights the natural soundstage of this entire recording, providing beautiful image dimensionality, lots of air between the two solitary performers and providing lots of inner detail to  Faddis’ bite on his mouthpiece and Malone’s textured strumming. Speaking of strumming, the deep bass plucks and creative reverberations provided by Kivoshi Kitagawa on acoustic bass throughout this disc are a revelation to hear and explore. Starting off with “Hunters & Gatherers,” (the opening number that leads us into a foray of creative worldly conversations), Kitagawa provides the opening phrasing with low, fused sustained notes. Rising above this deep foundation are the piercing muted blows of Faddis on high, sustained treble and the dancing lines of David Hazeltine’s piano solo. A blinding crash of Deon Parson’s cymbals accompanies a magnificent crescendo, with full, splashing decay until only a few taps on high hat end our journey (and conversation). “Hey Lalo” heads in a totally different direction: full bebop ahead. Light skirmishes are played out between Faddis and Hazeltine, as Faddis goes up and down his creative muted register, utilizing repetitions and trills while Hazeltine puts down some fine turns of phrase and scampers from full chords to a return of the light, playful melody.

Kitagawa also leads the charge on the title cut with his acoustic bass powering below the African/Caribbean rhymes provided by the djembe, talking drum and sabor played by Senegalese musicians Abdou Mboup and Alioune Faye. “Teranga” is a sprawling glorious composition, spanning beautiful conversations between the Senegalese percussionists and Frank Weiss’ deep, soulful alto flute and Faddis on muted, brazen trumpet. More weaving of intricate, colorful improvisation occurs here, on the foundation of the percussionists’ power and Hazeltine’s piano trills and light spills. There are two sections of this piece that go into a high gear of African dance celebration that will test your system’s ability to stay focused and true to the deep, plunging bass and quick hand drum movements. Not to mention how your tweeters will handle and project Faddis’ brilliant sustains up so very high. The recording offers great dynamic range and a front row seat prospective on all of this tremendous action and interplay.

Less we not forget how vocals can also intertwine with instruments to create interplay of dialog and improvisation, Faddis offers his playful duet with the great Clark Terry on “The Fibble-ow Blues,” marked by a bluesy entrance solo by Malone on guitar. We are placed in the thick of a slow brewing blues number, highlighted by Terry, (the master of “barely verbal communication”), hamming it up with Faddis as they exchange trumpet-flugelhorn and verbal conversation of the highest level of intellectual pursuits, including how you need “liver-lips” and a “clean spleen” to blow your horn and do those mysterious Fibble-ows. In contrast to this playful romp, “Teranga” concludes its conversation with the slow, somber march of “Transitions” into the effervescence of “The Baron,” a tune written by Faddis for Kenny Baron. This last cut fulfills all of the great conversational improv of this brilliant disc. Faddis literally exploding with ideas up and down his register and moves in and out of an interweaving dialog with Gary Smulyan, who adds his own bombastic baritone sax solos to the animated, shared conversation.

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Nelson Brill