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David Chesky Quintet: Jazz in the New Harmonic

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Jazz in the New Harmonic is a strange record. Pianist and composer David Chesky, who works in both the jazz and classical genres, combines them in a 21st-century take on the Third Stream concept. He unleashes a killer jazz quintet (trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, saxophonist Javon Jackson, bassist Peter Washington, drummer Billy Drummond) on tunes composed in contemporary-classical harmony. The resultant album evokes jazz/conservatory fusions of the late 1950s, but it emphasizes the most grating elements of that sound and era. It is deeply, unceasingly dark-too much so to be enjoyable.

The rhythm section maintains a pattern throughout: monotonous vamps from Drummond and Washington; sparse, dissonant and blues-less comps from Chesky. The effect is cold and detached, giving even the hip-hop groove of “Burnout” a veneer of bleakness and isolation. The swingers, namely the title track and “Duke’s Groove,” only up the ante with overt noir affectations in their melodies and a sluggish pace. The echo-laden horns do little to help: Dissonant themes like that of “Broadway” enhance the music’s moodiness, but on “Transcendental Tripping” Pelt and Jackson’s vexed interplay cloaks a Latin groove that might otherwise have enlivened the affair.

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