Russ Lossing - piano
Thomas Morgan - bass
Paul Motian - drums
Kind of Blue Records 2011
Samuel Blaser's name already resonates on jazz scene thanks to his quartet's releases and he has proven himself to be among the most accomplished trombone players of young generation in jazz music. "Consort in Motion" is another step in his career and it is a step in quite a different direction.
Blaser embarks on a difficult and ambitious project as he tries to merge two distant musical traditions - Jazz and Baroque music. He selected and re-arranged for this jazz ensemble compositions by Claudio Monteverdi, Biagio Marini and Girolamo Frescobaldi (or wrote his own compositions - using their music as an inspiration). Now I'm hardly to be called classical music afficionado and that robs me plenty of the intellectual pleasure one might find in deciphering the ways Blaser adapted the original material, but I still find here much to appreciate.
Blaser, as he explains in the liner notes, selected the tunes that could be easily modifed as far as their melodic, rhythmic or harmonic structure goes. But still I feel he treats the original music with great respect as he tries to convey the mood, the richness of it, rather than simply duplicate the structures.
The music is solemn, cerebral, elegant as the gentle, velvety trombone sound glides gracefully over the rich harmony provided by the swift piano arpeggios (as in "Lamento della Ninfa" or "Passacaglia"). It doesn't mean that the musicians shy away when the music's development leads to more vigorous playing and darker moods ("Si Dolce e' l'Tormento" - Monteverdi).
The three "Reflections on ..." ("Vespro delle Beata Vergine" and "Piagn'e' sospira" by Monteverdi, "Toccata" by Frescobaldi) have more loose sense to it, the jazz core of the music is emphasized by the lightly swinging rhythm section, the jazzy roaring trombone and its vibrant phrasing, contrasted by the sharper chords of the Russ Lossings searching piano solo.
Blaser is a remarkable musician himself (his control of the tone and colour is magnificient) and the three companions he chose for this project complement his vision. Russ Lossing combines the lyricsm and the harmonic edge within his solos, Thomas Morgan plays with grace and subtlety throughout and Paul Motian, well, his usual incredible combination of finesse and power, his lines swinging delicately, enhancing the melody as much as the rhythm.
"Consort in Motion" succeeds on many levels but most importantly it achieves the main goal - the merger of jazz and baroque music, in a way that shows a deep understanding of both musical traditions. As it brings forward the harmonic and melodic richness of baroque music and the grasping spontaneous quality of jazz improvisation, it goes far beyond a superfciality of a 'jazzed-up' version of classical music and as such it's an inspiring and fresh statement within the traditions of a 'third stream'. Samuel Blaser retains the beauty of the music composed by old masters without loosing his own individuality.
While this music will be most appreciated by those who love both the musical worlds presented (as they will be able to spot the intricancies of Blaser arrangements and follow them closely) anyone with open ears and mind will find a lot to value in here. Deeply rewarding listening.