The Many Faces
LINER NOTES- You can tell by the rapport and intimacy of this recording that the guys in The New Standard Quintet are committed to making seriously beautiful music together. This group is made up of some of Chicago's finest musicians and is very cohesive with a distinct sound. There are shades and colors that show off different facets of this music's history. Comprised of original compositions by leader Ken Partyka and guitarist Pat Fleming, this CD displays some very beautiful, playful and thought provoking music. There is a maturity coming from within the band that shows a high level of musicianship and experience. I've known Ken Partyka for many years and have never heard him sound better or be more in control on all his saxophones; great sound and lovely ideas. What I didn't know was what a wonderful composer he is also! Pat on guitar is one of the bright lights in the Chicago jazz world as both a player and composer. Both Ken and Pat's originals are extremely melodic and memorable, which isn't so much in vogue these days in the current jazz world. It's really nice to hear strong melodies! Curt Bley sounds wonderful on both acoustic and electric bass and has shown these qualities in many different settings over the years. Drummer Rick Vitek shows why he's been in demand on the Chicago scene for a long time, displaying a great time feel and sensitivity in his playing. Tom Vaitsas is new to my ears but I look forward to hearing more from him in the future; great support and shadings. The essence of this music we call jazz, has always been about communication and interaction and this recording absolutely establishes that to the listener. I believe that this project is a labor of love by some very committed musicians. I hope there are more projects to follow, but for now, enjoy!! - MARK COLBY Chicago 2011 I loved the tunes and arrangements too. It is very hip, modern and intellectual without being phony. There is sincerity here coexisting with true artistic expression. To me, this is why I love jazz. Ideas that push the tradition forward that are rooted in the core of the artform. Congratulations on this great project, and thank you ever so much for sharing it with me. Thumbs are way up! JOHN COOPER- Director of Jazz Studies, Western Illinois University Artist: New Standard Quintet Album: The Many Faces Reviewer: Nick DeRiso New Standard Quintet lives up to it's name, time and again, not by resurrecting age-old tracks but by trying to fashion it's own rules for approaching original jazz music. Almost to a fault, the Chicago-based group gives the slip to clichŽs that sink this age-old form, making The Many Faces a ride that's as inviting as it is intriguing. The album opens on a hard-swinging note, with saxophonist Ken Partyka leading a coiled group through the angular, but very musical beginnings of 'The Melbourne Method.' Guitarist Pat Fleming, the song's composer, adds a series of sharp, fusion-informed asides, while electric keyboardist Tom Vaitsas works in percussive counterpoint. Already, this Chicago-based group has set a template for what's to come, offering a take on jazz that's frisky and modern, but also boasts a mindfully mature sense of melody. New Standard Quintet has an edge, but it's not a serrated one. Partyka's 'Mirror Mirror,' a stop-start Monk-inspired blues, allows the active but never showy pairing of drummer Rick Vitek and bassist Curt Bley an opportunity to shine. Partyka's saxophone has the smoky intrigue of a noir film, but the song never stumbles into black-and-white clichŽ thanks to the dime-turning eloquence of it's rhythm section. Together, they imbue 'Mirror Mirror' with an interesting friction. 'A Voz Doce,' the second of Fleming's five originals on this nine-song project, settles into a pleasant island groove, as Vitek switches to the brushes and Partyka offers a whispery accompaniment. Fleming solos here, first alone and then alongside a suddenly ruminative Vaitsas, are a tour-de-force - as he plays with this wonderfully idiosyncratic sense of humor, intelligence and wonder. At times, Fleming's guitar has an almost weightless quality, at others a roaming sophistication, at still others this relaxed sense of winking intrigue. 'Uncertainty Principle' then comes crashing in, recalling the muscular inventiveness of this album's opening track, as Partyka and Fleming storm out in unison. In what seems like a matter of moments, New Standard Quintet has gotten to an instrumental segment that is perhaps the most challenging so far, as Vaitsas walks right up to the edge of outside jazz while Vitek happily bashes away. Partyka, ever the well-grounded leader, steps into draw the track back towards it's bop-ish center - underscoring once more the group's tight focus on musicality. Fleming's turn, tough and full of arena-rock attitude, becomes a soaring bridge back toward the original theme. Partyka returns with the title track, an unpretentiously performed slow cooker. It's perhaps the safest moment on The Many Faces, providing a catalyst for the saxist's warm, inviting tone but ending without the challenging undertones that elsewhere make this album so memorable. Bley's thudding bass intro on Fleming's 'Only More So ...' signals a sprightly shift in direction, and it is: From Partyka's stuttering lines to the guitarist's lyrically balanced counterpoints to Vitek's fizzy accompaniment to Vaitsas' impishly involving turn at the electric piano, this track is a complete return to form. 'One Eyed Jack' finds Vaitsas switching to a gurgling organ, giving the Fleming track a throwback soul-jazz vibe. There's a jaunty insouciance through smart solos by Fleming, Partyka and then Vaitsas, however, that keeps the track from becoming predictable or rote. Partyka's 'In the Kitchen' then ramps up into a solid, in-the-pocket post-bop groove, with Vaitsas remaining at the organ. The Many Faces concludes with Partyka's 'No More Words (Goodnight)', as the saxophonist gets set, it seems, to send us home with a sense of romantic reverie. Only, once more, this restlessly inventive amalgam begins to assert itself with these fascinating digressions. Bley adds a few funky thoughts. Vitek catches a salacious little groove. Then, all of a sudden, Vaitsas has moved into this grease-popping, soul-dripping electric-piano solo. By the time Partyka makes his return, 'No More Words' has transformed into something far more boisterous, like the back-slapping ending of a family reunion, rather than a loving front-porch goodbye kiss. Once again, New Standard Quintet finds a way to defy expectations. Review by Nick DeRiso Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
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