Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet - Jersey

Label/Year: Motema, 2017

Lineup – Jason Rigby: saxophone; Fabian Almazan: piano; Chris Morrissey: bass; Mark Guiliana: drums.

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American drummer Mark Guiliana combines an affirmative versatility, aesthetic sensibility, and puissant technique in every project he participates. Those features make him able to play in many different settings. Besides being an integral part of the urban jazz projects led by Donny McCaslin and Dave Douglas, Guiliana got broadened notoriety when he took responsibility for all the rhythmic work in David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar.

Despite the constantly busy schedule, the drummer found the time to gather his adjustable jazz quartet in 2015, in order to build the excellent album Family First, an acoustic mix of easygoing post-bop and irresistible pop/rock.

That’s exactly the line of action followed in his new outing, Jersey, which unfolds with strong melodic ethos while breathing deeply and methodically with an unyielding musicality.

For this record, Fabian Almazan sits down at the piano replacing Shai Maestro, while saxophonist Jason Rigby and bassist Chris Morrissey remain in their respective positions.

An upbeat drumming style, marked by tom-tom expansiveness and timely hi-hat staples, introduces “Inter-are”, a piece dank in smothered and highly-rhythmic low-pitched notes delivered by Almazan, who, once in a while, infuses fulminant, bright chords with his right hand. Rigby’s solo benefits from this particular mood and the tune resumes the initial percussive eruption after Almazan’s short and sweeping solo.

Evincing a strong propensity for touching balladry forged with catchy melodies, Guiliana presents us the title track, a soulful, sunshiny pop song earnestly written and passionately delivered with a reinvigorating in-and-out improvisation by Rigby; “September”, whose soaring drones emitted by Morrissey’s bass arco form a prayerful, modal atmosphere when combined with Rigby’s melodies and Almazan’s reverberating harmonies; and David Bowie’s poignant ballad “Where Are We Now?”, which closes the album in a crescendo, regardless its benevolent character and crystalline lyricism.

Morrissey’s “Our Lady” and Guiliana’s “Big Rig Jones” take disparate directions, considering that the former is an eventful cocktail of happy folk melodies, bracing harmonic passages, and Afro-Latin pulses, while the latter, also falling into post-bop orthodoxy, varies in intensity. It embarks on a storytelling that is nice and quiet when Morrissey has the word for a brief moment, but earns a sparkling flair when Rigby comes to the forefront, fueling the combustion with his incendiary dialect. A tender pianism softens the fervency for the finale.

Jersey, another great accomplishment by the Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet, is here to fill your ears with achingly warm sounds and true emotions.

         Grade  A-

        Grade A-

Favorite Tracks: 
02 - Jersey ► 06 - September ► 07 - Big Rig Jones