Tiny Reviews: Jamie Oehlers, Natalie Cressman, Tyler Vander Maas, & Borna Sercar

Tiny Reviews, featuring:  Jamie Oehlers Quartet Smoke and Mirrors, Natalie Cressman & Secret Garden Unfolding, Tyler Vander Maas Sax Quartet TVSQ, and Borna Sercar’s Jazziana Croatica Nehaj.



Jamie Oehlers Quartet – Smoke and Mirrors

Saxophonist Jamie Oehlers aptly named the album for this quartet, who seem to enjoy keeping the listener guessing.  Tunes that strike out in one direction rarely maintain it.  Sudden changes in tempo, progressions heavy on the angularity, and thematic shifts in emotion from song to song, yet it all kind of works in the end.  One of those albums that rewards patience.  Sometimes when an album presents a lot of different pieces and there’s a lot going on, it can sometimes make it tough for a solid connection to be made with the music… at first.  Over time, with repeated listening, either we come to see that the initial charm was nothing more than an infatuation with a lot of stuff getting thrown up in the air with no grand plan or it was the result of sensing that there was more to the music than just some deft sleights of hand.  Smoke and Mirrors happily falls into the latter category.  I liked this album when I first heard it back in August, and now four months later, I like it even more.

Your album personnel: Jamie Oehlers (tenor sax), Tal Cohen (piano), Sam Anning (bass), and Ari Hoeing (drums).

Released on the Jazzhead Records label.

Jazz from the Mount Lawley, Perth (Australia) scene.

You can stream the entire album on the artist’s bandcamp page.

Available at eMusic.


Natalie Cressman & Secret Garden – Unfolding

Debut album from the young trombonist and vocalist Natalie Cressman, who also takes the helm as arranger.  Mostly originals, but gives “Honeysuckle Rose” a playful groove and takes a turn at “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” which I’m always happy to see.  Really strong play from all members of the sextet, and just a beautifully put together album.  Lots of slow builds of tension to moments of proud soaring.  Should appeal even to jazz fans who shy from vocals recordings.

Your album personnel: Natalie Cressman (trombone, vocals), Ivan Rosenberg (trumpet), Chad Lefkowitz-Brown (tenor sax), Pascal Le Boeuf (piano, Fender Rhodes), Ruben Samama (acoustic bass), Jake Goldbas (drums, percussion), and guest: Peter Apfelbaum (tenor sax).

Released on the Cressman Music label.

Jazz from NYC.

You can stream the album at the artist’s bandcamp page.

Available at eMusic.


Tyler Vander Maas Sax Quartet – TVSQ

As far as sax quartets go, this one creates an admirably textured palette. Tyler Vander Maas made the decision to focus more on composing and arranging than performance, and it appears to have been a good call.  TVSQ pays more attention to the harmonic elements than the interplay of honks and skronks.  Some very pretty moments, and some thrilling ones, too, like the transition between herky-jerky march and soft cooing on “Syeeda’s Song Flute,” and the switch from low moan to bright trills and cries on “After the Trane.”  Young group out of Lansing, Michigan, and a promising start to their careers.  Also worth checking out another Vander Maas ensemble, Orange Nature, in which Vander Maas steps up on trombone as part of a quartet that includes piano, bass, and reeds.

Your album personnel:  Tyler Vander Maas (compositions, arrangements), Royce Phillips (soprano sax), Taylor Herron (alto sax), Ryan Freitas (tenor sax), and Travis Sinclair (baritone sax).

The album is Self-Produced.

Jazz from the Lansing, Michigan scene.

Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artists.

Available at eMusic.


Borna Sercar’s Jazziana Croatica – Nehaj

Nice modern jazz recording that merges Croatian music into the fold.  Most tracks have a pleasant tempo that allows for kicking back and relaxing while also keeping the foot tapping, but there are moments when tracks verge on the fusion side of town.  Music far more straight-ahead than one might initially assume.  One of those albums that could’ve easily drifted by unseen, but I’ll take care of that by giving it a mention here.

Your album personnel: Borna Sercar (drums), Ante Gelo (guitar), Vojkan Jocic (sax), Zvjezdan Ruzic (piano), Tihomir Hojsak (double bass), and guests: Diana Grubišić Ćiković (harp) and a vocalist (unattributed).

You can stream two album tracks on the artist’s Youtube channel. It appears you can stream their previous album on the artist site HERE.

The album is Self-Produced.

Jazz from the Zagreg, Croatia scene.

Available at eMusic.



Portions of the reviews were originally used in my Jazz Picks weekly article for eMusic, so here’s some language protecting their rights to that reprinted material as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

“New Arrivals Jazz Picks,“ reprints courtesy of eMusic.com, Inc.
© 2012  eMusic.com, Inc.

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.  Cheers.