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Christian Howes: Jazz on Sale

The hip-hop generation, and even those who came of age in the funk era, would probably describe Christian Howes as “off the chain.” In other words, label Christian Howes as bold. This is evident initially from the first of two renditions of Monk’s “Blue Monk” on Jazz on Sale. The first “Blue Monk” screams and screeches its emotions in contrast to Monk’s more intellectual approach to the blues. But Jazz on Sale does calm down, and the tradition of jazz violin explored by people like Ray Nance, Stuff Smith, Stephane Grappelli and now Regina Carter is well cared for by Howes and his fine trio.

Howes is classically trained, so he comes to jazz with an able willingness to explore. On Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green,” Howes doesn’t work his magic as well, but there is no need to worry: the trio’s version of Thad Jones’ “A Child Is Born” redeems any of the CD’s shortcomings. Howes’ version is quiet and solemn but, most important, spiritual at its core.

While the standards shine well here, the original compositions work, too. Howes’ pianist Federico Lechner offers the luscious “Amor Casi Imposible,” which translates to “Love Almost Impossible.” A ballad of sonic precision and subtle emotions, “Amor Casi Imposible” finds Lechner and Howes walking in lockstep through the creative journey. But the best here is Howes’ own “Jazz on Sale.” Though it strangely resembles Monk’s “Straight No Chaser,” Howes’ daring to dive headfirst into Monk’s domain deserves respect.

Howes might not be blue like Monk, but it’s all good; his command over a special instrument easily makes up for any shyness he exhibits toward pure blues.

Originally Published