Sam Bardfeld - The Great Enthusiasms

Label/Year: Brooklyn Jazz Underground, 2017

Lineup - Sam Bardfeld: violin; Kris Davis: piano; Michael Sarin: drums.


New York violinist-composer Sam Bardfeld has a natural inclination for avant-garde jazz, yet he has had other enriching experiences in his career such as recording with the rock star Bruce Springsteen (three albums) and Joel Harrison’s String Choir (one album). He’s also a member of The Jazz Passengers and was part of the Anthony Braxton’s prestigious Trillium J Orchestra.

After a 12-year discontinuity (his sophomore album Periodic Trespasses was released in 2007 on the Fresh Sound label), Bardfeld returns alongside Kris Davis, a master pianist in the art of creating dynamic/ecstatic textures, and Michael Sarin, a highly adaptable drummer and genre-bending jazz militant. Together, they render five Bardfeld originals and two covers, bringing The Great Enthusiasms into life.

The trio strides into action through the teasingly provocative “Fails While Daring Greatly”, which displays questioning and exclamative violin expressions hovering a fine piano-drums texture delivered at a 4/4 mid-tempo. Bardfeld strolls in the company of Sarin, but is later joined by the emulation of a walking bass movement put out by Davis. The latter also improvises with the rhythmic inventiveness that got her recognition.
Resignation Rag” is made of similar material as the previous tune, except that, evoking an older musical style, Bardfeld draws more from the blues in his speech and Sarin becomes fairly playful in his responses. Davis also works dexterously with both hands during the time reserved for her individual expedition.

Full of shifting passages, “Winner Image” starts with wide-ranging violin melodies and soft cymbal caresses, assuming a dreamlike posture with the addition of an ethereal piano. The bandleader suddenly jumps into a spiral of fast, circular moves before giving total freedom to the pianist, who builds an unorthodox bouncy dance that only ends with the theme’s statement.

A beautifully flowing, emotionally charged rendition of “Because the Night”, a 70s pop/rock composition by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith, comprises both scaled up accentuations and peaceful moments of relaxation. The album also features another Bardfeld’s American rock favorite, “King Harvest” by The Band.
The conclusive gesture, “The 37th Time I Have Spoken”, evinces a dual nature, mixing lyric and waggish tones as it progressively explores and spreads its concentrated inner energy. The theme is made of an emphatic juxtaposition of whispered strummed violin, delicate piano tact, and accurate percussive awareness.

Bardfeld is very much effective in the way he builds music, experimenting in accordance with his unique vision and taking advantage of the enthusiastic passion he feels for this particular genre. Rather than clashing, the trio advances collectively, finding an exquisite purity and climactic astonishment in their procedures.

        Grade  B+

        Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
02- Resignation Rag ► 04 - Because the Night ► 07 - The 37th Time I Have Spoken