Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ben Powell New Street 2012


Street Date 5/15/12

"The passing of the torch" is a tad cliche...so is referring to an artist such as Ben Powell as "the future of modern jazz" but both are just about as accurate as one can get. Powell's sophomore effort is a somewhat historical two recordings built into one auspicious presentation that is as solid and exciting an effort as you will find.

Ben Powell is a self produced classical prodigy whose penchant for jazz not to mention a myriad of other influences has directed his artistic sense of self to explore his inner self in such a fashion as to chart his own unique path in the artistic community. There have been several notable violin releases over the past six months and while all are of the highest caliber there is something special tied into Power and New Street. The release itself if divided into two parts with the first as a special tribute for famed Hot Club pioneer Stephane Grappelli which includes Gary Burton and another rising phenom in guitarist Julian Lage and the second the Ben Powell Quartet and where they are today.

The Ben Powell Quartet is an exciting offering of odd meter and sophisticated harmonic development which is best on display with the title track "New Street." Powell opens with an intimate and tender ballad "Judith" with a subtle Bach reference in the final bars but the chemistry with pianist Tadataka Unno, bassist Aaron Darrell and drummer Devin Drobka is a joy to listen to unfold and envelope the listener is a kind of emotional revelry seldom heard in such a setting.

The more historical significance to the release is the tune "Gary" which was written by Stephane Grappelli for Burton but oddly enough has never been recorded for release until now. Powell does an exemplary job and the interplay with Burton and Lage is indeed a special moment. "La Chanson Des Rues" is another stunning performance featuring Burton and Lage on a familiar French melody offten played by Grappelli.

When hearing "violin" one often thinks of Grappelli but perhaps more often than not continues to a more classical frame of reference. It may be Powell's classical virtuosity that pushes this release over the top but "New Street" is indeed a new direction for modern jazz and will chart a special and unique course for others to follow.

5 Stars

Tracks: Judith; New Street; Monk 4 Strings; Gary*; What Is This Thing Called Love (featuring Adrien Moignard); Sea Shell; La Vie En Rose (featuring Linda Calise); Swingin' for Stephane'; La Chanson Des Rues*; Piccadilly Stomp*.

Personnel: Ben Powell: violin; Tadataka Unno: piano; Aaron Darrell: bass; Devin Drobka: drums.

*Stephane Grappelli Tribute Trio
Ben Powell: violin
Gary Burton: vibraphone
Julian Lage: guitar