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Brian Lynch: Brian Lynch Meets Bill Charlap

Brian Lynch and pianist Bill Charlap are by no means musical strangers, having shared the bandstand for several years as members of the Phil Woods Quintet. But Brian Lynch Meets Bill Charlap (Sharp Nine), which features the two principals in a quartet setting with bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Joe Farnsworth, has all the freshness of a first encounter. This is Lynch’s fourth date for Sharp Nine, and it abounds in the kind of swing and creativity one would expect from such seasoned straightahead players. Charlap, a noted Great American Songbook scholar, brings his learning and wit to the session’s four standards: “My Heart Stood Still,” the wailing flugelhorn and piano duet “Come Rain or Come Shine,” the ballad “Autumn Nocturne” and the odd-metered, harmonically tweaked “On Green Dolphin Street.” Three Lynch originals and the Brazilian staple “Atras da Porta” round out the program, but the quartet is nowhere more burning than on Charlie Parker’s C blues head “Cheryl.” Lynch, his horn muted, runs the melody twice in a skin-of-the-teeth unison with only Charlap. The band enters, simmering; Farnsworth marks the brisk tempo with brushes. Lynch embarks on an inspired series of fours with Charlap and later delivers his most economical and idea-packed solo of the session. For Charlap’s piece de resistance, check out Lynch’s “On the Dot,” a fiendish uptempo line over “Just in Time” changes.

On Fuschia/Red (Cellar Live), recorded in Vancouver at the Cellar, we hear Lynch with a very different keyboard man: Canada’s own Brad Turner, who in fact gigs as a trumpeter when not handling keys with the fusion group Metalwood. Turner plays Fender Rhodes exclusively on this date-quite a departure from the thoroughly acoustic Sharp Nine session. One might even think of Fuschia/Red as Lynch’s rejoinder to Nicholas Payton’s Sonic Trance. With bassist Andre Lachance and drummer Bernie Arai, Lynch and Turner stretch out over five of Lynch’s originals, running the gamut from tripped-out funk (“Cory’s Strut,” the title track) to hip, smoky jazz (“Magenta’s Waltz”) to intricate straight-eighth and Latin grooves (“Mysteries of Travel,” “J.B.’s Dilemma”).

Following a precedent set by Jason Moran, Dave Douglas and Marlon Browden, Lynch also explores the idiosyncratic universe of Bjork (“Aurora”)-but he is probably the first player to quote Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing” while doing so. The album has its formulaic moments, but this band creates a good deal of motion and excitement, sometimes veering into an electric Miles or even jazztronica space with the aid of wah-wah and other signal-processing tools.

Originally Published