There is a noir jazz complexion in the music of Jim Gailloreto’s Jazz String Quintet that reverberates of haunting sensations in the harmonies of the instruments as they travel along serpentine-curved passageways. The group’s new CD, American Complex from Origin Classical label, covers an extensive network of movements from the vintage chamber jazz formations of yesteryear to the domains of avant garde, downbeat ambient, and eclectic modern.
American Complex exhibits a number of facets that vary from the soft glides of classic jazz minuets to eccentric-based motifs calibrated to move at different rhythmic rates framed by sharply cut angles and an Americana-tint in the melodic tooling. The group’s interaction adds dimension to the listening experience by contouring the melodic phrases to reflect familiar visuals. The album is like a performance art piece where it is easy to imagine a cast of actors playing out the movements in the compositions similarly to the actors of the silent film era.
The quintet performs a handful of original tracks and a few improvised renditions of works by Thelonious Monk, Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller, and Patricia Barber who additionally sings on her songs “Spring Song” and “Wind Song.” The quintet performs as a solid unit even as each musician is entirely involved in his or her own thoughts resulting in a convergence of musical ideas that spurs rejuvenation to occur. For instance, the taut strokes of Benton Wedge’s viola are layered in the feathery swirls of violinists Katherine Hughes and Carol Kalvonjian as the deep-toned vibrations of Jill Kaeding’s cello tippy toe through the melodic glades in “Soliloquy.” The dialogue is animated and melodically synchronized as the harmonies erupt into a vision of sonic beauty.
“Soliloquy” is the opening number to the title track’s suite which bridges into the network of flowery twirls and jutting flights taken by the strings in “Lullaby.” From there, the suite shifts into the soft undulations of “Incantation” before transforming into the downbeat shading of “Sermon.” The instruments pulsate at their own rhythmic timing enabling them to bracket each other’s movements and connect at disjointed angles, and yet, they complement one another’s patterns nicely. The strings squeeze together and loosen their knotted bunches at the close of “Sermon” to come together as one at the ending of the suite.
The group sinks their talons into Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight” forming new variations on the main themes that frost the striking accents of the original tune with the angelic temper of the strings. The group performs this same feat with “Fats” Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose.” Patricia Barber’s bourbon-toned timbres resonate beautifully through the channels of graceful notes sowed by the strings in “Spring Song” and “Wind Song” giving these tunes a tint of classic pop meshed with its classic jazz smoothness. Jim Gailloreto’s saxophone adds a mild fizzle in the melodic fluidity of “Bad Clowns,” but stirs up the mixture in Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” as guitarist John McLean mirrors Gailloreto’s melodic phrases.
Jim Gailloreto’s Jazz String Quintet are perceptive in knowing when to slice into each others phrases and to what extent to make the cuts. Sometimes the slices are blunt and sometimes they are made at an angle, but no matter how the quintet does it, the outcome is sonically complex and interesting making American Complex an impressive piece of work.