Saxophonist, clarinetist, flutist Chris Greco is a composer/performer that is bent by many influences: American jazz, non-western music, American pop and classical music traditions. Holding a D.M.A. (UCLA) in classical saxophone performance and having worked as a professional free-lance jazz musician in Los Angeles who is constantly exploring and performing in a variety of jazz idioms that has allowed Greco to develop a unique voice. Greco has taken the time and energy to develop as an instrumentalist, but has taken up the challenge of developing his compositional skills as well. Greco holds a M.A. in composition and has been mounting a unique body of work over the past two decades. Recognition for his work in composition includes a 2001 Julius Hemphill Composition Award (“The Flight Of A Bird Leaves No Trace”) and eleven consecutive ASCAPlus Awards (2002 - 2012) for his emerging catalog of works. Greco’s recordings on gwsfourwinds include; Well You Needn’t, Standards Vol.1, the electro-acoustic compositions of Trane of Thought, and the chamber jazz of Pleiadian Call/Music for Trio.
Greco’s new CD, Trane of Thought, has eight original compositions performed by a group of players that know how to play groove-based dynamic music. Greco describes the quartet; “with this quartet, with this particular set of players, had an overall sound that I describe as electro-acoustic. The electric guitar piloted by Brad through a midi-synthesizer in tandem with Taba’s electric approach to the upright bass generated a sonic palette that was electro-acoustic in nature. Kay could move in many directions, which is why he works so well with this material.” The compositions on the date are composed with this modern jazz approach and stylistic diversity and language in mind.
Greco is certainly a virtuoso that is not afraid to occasionally break the mold and he shows that his skills and interests make him perfectly suited for stretching the jazz fabric in all the right places. The group stays within the mainstream language enough for even the hardest boppers to follow, all the while mixing things up with modern rhythms and harmonic and melodic colors. The result is an album that blazes its own unique path, while still acknowledging the past and spotlighting music for a new generation.
Greco reveals, “the title track, ‘Trane of Thought,’ is a homage to Coltrane, as I explore a particular harmonic progression, and a particular groove favored by the great jazz saxophonist, albeit through my own invention.” Drummer Kendall Kay starts the selection with a long drum intro that develops a motivic rhythmic cell until the groove is fully established and bassist Dean Taba joins him. Guitarist Brad Rabuchin, provides ambient swells until the melody is conveyed by Greco on Tenor. With smart use of group hits and flowing lines the melody gives way to solos. Greco takes his time in developing his musical story over a strong pulse from the Taba and Kay foundation. Greco and Rabuchin work well off each other to build the story. Greco’s robust tenor gives the story line to Rabuchin after well-placed swelling upper register work. Rabuchin’s tone is slightly chorused and he develops the plot with a nice balance of single notes and contemporary voicings.
“Oliver” is a simmering up-tempo swing selection that has a release of a quasi- samba interlude. Rabuchin provides another fine solo, staying consistent in tempo and mood. But when it comes time for Greco to solo, he really displays his wide command of the tenor, with an improvisation that keeps the bebop tradition with an added exotic, mysterious and ultimately exuberant nuances, variety and virtuosity.
Overall, Trane of Thought offers a balance of integration of traditions while pushing the envelope of today’s modern jazz idioms. Greco has assembled a find recording and is backed by an equally articulate ensemble.
Personnel: Chris Greco: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet; Brad Rabuchin: guitars; Dean Taba: contrabass; Kendall Kay: drums, congas.
Track Listing: Sterope; Trane Of Thought; Oliver; Merope; Mid-City Funk; T.D.S.; Maia; Electra; Soul Eyes.
H. Allen Williams
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