Aug 27 2016
Today’s column features the music of NYC-based pianist Steve Hudson.
He has a solid array of diverse projects… chamber, groove, straight-ahead, soundtrack and more… and what’s always grabbed my attention is the way facets of his songbook are brought to life by each of the different ensembles, the nature of one ensemble highlighting certain components that other ensembles mute as they look to different facets to light the way ahead. The mutability of those compositions, and the way that they maintain an essential nature, a core personality impervious to the currents of change, it’s the kind of thing that breeds familiarity in the same way it excites the ear to hear what else there is to discover in what was previously thought to be known.
Outer Bridge Ensemble – Determined
Hudson’s most recent album, Determined, was recorded with his Outer Bridge Ensemble. With this recording, the gold is in the groove. There’s title-track “Determined” and its casual kick-back-and-groove that occasionally shoots up out of its seat in wild euphoria. That attitude continues with the casual cool of “Galactic Diamonds,” where the ensemble lets the melody drift in space before shepherding it along with a bit more purpose. The pacing of the album and the way the ensemble modulates the cadences, it provides the melodies the necessary time to breathe, to fully mature before the next groove carries them away. On a track like “Galactic Diamonds,” it’s all the difference between profound melodic statements and a nice melody that’s only a sidenote to the groove.
The pacing also opens things up so that the array of percussion instruments get their voice heard. A song like “Salute” crackles with a live-wire electricity, but the easy-going disposition means the details don’t get lost in the mix. And when it happens that a groove is switched out for expressions more akin to moonlight, all the casual pacing that led up to the moments of “New Beginnings” and “Wanderin’” allows the song to resonate with even greater strength.
Your album personnel: Steve Hudson (piano, organ, Rhodes), Mark DeJong (saxophones), David Freeman (conga, djembe, percussion), Jerome Jennings (drums, percussion) and guests: Soren Nissen (bass), James Zollar (trumpet), Carsten Rubeling (trombone) and Oren Neiman (guitar).
This Self-Produced recording was released in 2013.
Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Soundcloud page.
Available at: Amazon
Steve Hudson Chamber Ensemble – Galactic Diamonds
On 2010’s Galactic Diamonds, it’s the melody that moves things along. Whereas Determined shaped the world through the seismic shifts between grooves, the Steve Hudson Chamber Ensemble views the world through the eye of the melody. Introductory track “Tune With Tango” is just the opening salvo of melodic painting from a quartet that includes violinist Zach Brock, cellist Jody Redhage and percussionist Martin Urbach. “Mingus Moon” takes a dramatic cut of a melody and changes the song from a simmering intensity to untamed wildness just by altering the speed and curvature of its delivery.
And then there’s “Keep It Simple,” a song that makes the distant warmth of a chamber jazz piece as friendly as can be with a melody that smiles with some pop music cheerfulness. The jazz-folk “Wanderin'” is no less friendly, but its camaraderie is meant to be enjoyed in silence and watching the sun set peacefully over the horizon. On the other hand, the melody of “Galactic Diamonds” is the invitation for those whom the sunset signals only the start of the day’s fun. And “Funky Hobbit” is almost a precursor to the 2013 release Determined.
On an album that’s defined by its melodies, the conversational patter of percussionist Martin Urbach is particularly welcome, both for the expansion of its language and the tastefulness of its restraint.
Your album personnel: Steve Hudson (piano, melodica), Zach Brock (violin), Jody Redhage (cello, vocals), and Martin Urbach (drums, cajon, percussion).
This Self-Produced was released in 2010 on Groovaholic Music.
Listen to more album tracks at the artist’s Bandcamp page.
Steve Hudson – Shine
And if Determined and Galactic Diamonds reflected the vision of Steve Hudson existing at one extreme or the other, his 2008 recording Shine showed how things shook out when he kept things closer to the heart of jazz. There’s no abiding theme to the music or a prevailing sound… it’s just straight-ahead goodness no matter how the music comes out. Some of its individuality can be traced back to Hudson’s use of two different casts for the recording. But more of it has to do with vision, of revealing the entire shape of a project through the presentation of its different facets.
The up-tempo opener “Boomba” sends off all kinds of fireworks between the melodic strikes from trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, trumpeter James Zollar and the baritone sax of Claire Daly, and the way Hudson’s piano weaves in and out of the woodwind’s flight patterns adds all kinds of texture to a song that boasts plenty of it. But then there’s tracks “Autumn Stroll” and title-track “Shine.” Both are cut from raw moonlight. Peter Eldridge sings it that way. The clarinet and alto sax of Oscar Noriega and Mark Dejong play it that way.
And that’s how this supremely enjoyable recording goes. No matter the speed, no matter the vintage of jazz, the ratios of blues to bop to post, each song is a little gem that shines bright in its own sweet way.
Your album personnel: Steve Hudson (piano, Rhodes), Pascal Niggenkemper (bass), Mike Noordzy (bass), Claire Daly (baritone sax), James Zollar (trumpet), Peter Eldridge (vocals), Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), Marcus Rojas (tuba), Oscar Noriega (clarinet), Mark Dejong (alto saxophone), David Freeman (drums) and Jerome Jennings (drums).
This Self-Produced album was released in 2008 on Groovaholic Music.
Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.
On the Horizon
Upcoming on the horizon is a new trio recording. Prepping for that session, Hudson has been hitting some live shows with two different trios: Bassist Hilliard Greene and drummer Rudy Royston comprising one unit and bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Gerald Cleaver the other. No word on whether any or all of these musicians will appear on the recording. Hudson is also working on a new chamber project, contributes to a new recording by bari saxophonist Claire Daly and a film short called “Beast” by Naava Feingold, which will get released in early 2017.
And there’s even more music to explore.
Be sure to check out other albums on Hudson’s Bandcamp page.
And then there’s also audio and videos on Hudson’s website.