Reviews (NYOP Edition): Josh Maxey “Approach” & Rusconi “Revolution”

July 2, 2012

 

NYOP Edition:  Reviews of Josh Maxey Approach and Rusconi Revolution.

The NYOP Review Series highlights albums set to Name Your Own Price by the artists with the goal of making price no obstacle to discovering their music.

*****

 

Josh Maxey – Approach

Guitarist Josh Maxey set himself of goal of recording six albums over the course of one year.  It was a hell of a goal, one not usually accomplished these days, but he seems close to attaining it.  This was album number two.

Also impressive about the feat is that his first four albums have very different line-ups and sounds, yet Maxey’s development of his own sound doesn’t suffer any dramatic shifts.  His voice on guitar is becoming recognizable, exclusive to only himself (which, really, is what all artists strive for).  So, it’s been exciting to hear his guitar in a series of varied environments.  On this album, it’s an organ trio.

Your album personnel:  Josh Maxey (guitar), Brian Charette (organ), and McClenty Hunter (drums).

Interestingly, there is more of an emphasis on atmospherics than developing a groove, something that works in the album’s favor.  If Maxey played build-a-funky-groove with Charette on organ, his guitar’s voice would get needlessly bogged down.  Instead, Maxey lets Charette develop the earth part of the tunes while letting his guitar take to the skies.  The result is a jazz-blues mix more akin to the wide open desert landscapes than late night jazz clubs.

There’s some tracks, like “Intent,” which have gospel seasoning added to its slow groove, but most tracks are the kind of blues that involve grabbing a dance partner and hitting the floor.  The track “Dear Ones” is a soulful tune that’s made for sitting at a late night bar, staring down at an empty whiskey glass, and wistfully recalling that one heartbreaker that slipped away.  Meanwhile, “Incarnate” is a song that hits the happier end of the emotional gauge, providing a peppy hop made for cool strolls down wide open city streets.

Released in November 2011.  The album is Self-Produced.  Jazz from NYC.

Available on Maxey’s Bandcamp page.

 

Rusconi – Revolution

Rusconi exemplifies the modern day trend of meshing jazz with indie-pop/rock music.  The presence of the jazz piano trio is there; it peeks out from time to time from behind the notes.  But consistent with New Piano Trio traits, the electronics and effects pour forth, the melodies that, once stated, take off and rarely, if ever, look back over their shoulder, and the rhythms are just as likely to rock as swing.

This trend is not a bad thing.  In many ways, it encompasses much of the jazz credo… improvisation that leads to innovation and experimentalism, musicianship that can juggle multiple schools of thought at the same time, and a forward-thinking attitude that pushes the envelope.  Except, now, emails are the new envelope, and electronics & effects are becoming more commonplace.  If used correctly, they can enhance a song, bring it texture like any other instrument would; used poorly, it’s a cheap novelty that will sink a tune.  On Revolution, Rusconi falls in the former category.

Your album personnel: Claudio Strüby (drums, clapping), Fabian Gisler (bass), and Stefan Rusconi (piano, clapping, whistling).

This is, however, more than a jazz piano trio using some effects and with a crush on pop music.  Rusconi is more in line with the ephemeral jazz-rock of Todd Sickafoose’s Tiny Resistors ensemble than Esbjorn Svensson’s game-changing piano trio style. Most of the tunes give the impression that the trio planted a seed of an idea, hit the record button, and let the damn thing grow in whatever direction their imagination took it.  The result is a set of tunes that don’t have any particular pattern to them, but as a whole, their is a definitive cohesion of sound to the album as a whole… a disparate collection of flora and fauna that, taken in its entirety, combines to create a garden of solitary identity.

Revolution has piano lines that sometimes sparkle, sometimes hum repetitively, bass that can sing lilting notes in the upper registers but is just as at home growling off some arco lines, and drums like a border collie keeping the notes from getting loose and wandering off.  There’s clapping and whistling, there’s the crash and rattle of effects, the drone and screech of electronics, there’s rising tempos that dramatically fall away into languor, and there’s peaceful interludes that speak in a tight hushed murmur.  Album closes with a live performance cover of a Sonic Youth song.

Revolution is one of those albums seemingly unconcerned with genre categorization, which is probably a big reason why it succeeds.

Released in March 2012.  The album is Self-Produced.  Music from Switzerland.

Available on their Bandcamp page.

*****

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