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March 2006

The San Francisco ChamberJazz Quartet
SFCJQ
Music Wizards

The San Francisco Chamber-Jazz Quartet differs from other jazz groups that invoke the word "chamber" as a descriptor, in that pop music from around the world inspires the SFCJQ just as much as classical and jazz do. The group's problem is that for two-thirds of its self-abbreviated album, the SFCJQ turns whatever source material is at hand into diffuse melancholia, mawkish sentiment or some combination of the two. Witness "Un Amor un Poco Tragico," which works a vague sense of regret beyond its capacity over an eight-minute span. Or "Someday Your Smile," where composer and SFCJQ pianist Gini Wilson displays an alarming disregard for the idea that song lyrics are supposed to rhyme and mean something in order to put forward a big breathy melody that turns soggy from all the pathos.

The group is capable of more; the rhythm Badr Karram beats out on a dumbek inspires some adventurous soloing on "Mussorgsky in Marrakesh," a setting of one of the "Pictures at an Exhibition," and Steve Heckman makes the most of the intriguing harmonies of "Let It Rain" with his flute solo. But most of SFCJQ will only hold appeal for those who like their music well groomed and endlessly sighing.

Originally published in March 2006
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