July/August 2006

Metta Quintet
Subway Songs
Sunnyside

Metta Quintet sounds every bit like dozens of other young post-Jazz Messenger bands that’ve come and gone since the mid-’80s. The band is the “Official Resident Ensemble of JazzReach Performing Arts & Education Association, Inc.,” an organization devoted to spreading the jazz gospel. As befits a band with such a high-minded mission, Metta embodies all that’s morally upstanding about contemporary jazz: The group is technically adept (disciplined), well-schooled in the music’s past (respectful of their elders) and emotionally constrained (hipness being the quintessential jazz trait these days).

The music is ostensibly inspired by “the many facets of the New York City Subway experience,” yet it hasn’t a speck of the grit you find under the streets of the metropolis (notwithstanding the heavy-handed use of actual subway sounds inserted between tunes). It could as well have been inspired by the monorail that connects Disney World with its parking lot.

The players (Marcus Strickland, tenor and soprano saxes and bass clarinet; Mark Gross, alto sax; Helen Sung, piano; Joshua Ginsburg, bass; H. Benjamin Schuman, drums) are all studiously competent. The material is well crafted but forgettable, which can be said about the project in general.

Originally published in July/August 2006
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