Friday, May 10, 2013

PJ Rassmussen Adventures In Flight Third Freedom Music 2013

Cover Art - Not a link to anything.

After reviewing over five thousand releases in the last two years, debut releases have no middle ground as they are notoriously either feast or famine. Guitarist PJ Rasmussen slays his debut outing Adventures in flight with an incredibly diverse selection of originals that are a more contemporary riff on some of the classic working bands that Blue Note was known for before the essentially turning their back on traditional jazz in favor of a plethora of urban hybrids that have wound up as nothing more than musical footnotes.

Drum titan Steve Johns seems to guide Rasmussen's contemporaries with a stylistic range that is not bound to the safety net of traditional jazz but instead covers a wide range of sub genres and styles that is key to the success and driving sense of lyrical and rhythmic purpose that  transforms a good release into a special release worthy of high praise. The yin to the sonic yang of Johns would be bassist Adrian Moring. Obvious chemistry aside this formidable sextet functions as one harmonious voice and celebrates the days when jazz ensembles stayed together for longer than one release. Complex harmonics compliment the lyrical sense of purpose and forward motion while the depth and subtle nuances created in this setting are incredibly innovative and daring for such an ensemble setting that is somewhat rare in the more traditional world of all things straight ahead. An open ended spontaneity seems to be the calling card of Rasmussen and a group that is on equal footing with contemporaries that have been at this longer than the young Rasmussen has been on this planet.

PJ Rasmussen has a distinctive voice on guitar making comparisons to other artists pointless at best. A poem sets the stage and mood for the listener leading into the opening tune "Avionics" which is a syncopated jazz nasty with a airy head which is the prototype for most hard bop units. "Stolen Miracles" is a myriad of Cuban piano rhythms with the intensity of a driven hard bop groove that is fierce and allows tenor man Nate Giroux to stretch out along with Rasmussen and pianist Chris Pattishall. Two ballads close out this gem allowing the listener to catch their breath and recharge with the warmth of Danny Reyes on flugelhorn. Vocalist Kelly Green delivers knockout performances on Waxing and Wayne-ing and At Long Last.

P.J. Rasmussen combines the contemporary with the old school hard bop vibe to create that new sound for modern jazz that will have heads turning in Rassmussen's direction very soon.

4 Stars and climbing fast!

Tracks: Avionics; Baden Hill; Waxing and Wayne-ing; Are You The One; Sunday Driver; Stolen Miracles; Kickin' The Can; At Long Last.

Personnel: PJ Rassmussen: guitar; Steve Johns: drums; Adrian Moring: bass; Chris Pattishall: piano; Nate Giroux: tenor saxophone; Danny Reyes: trumpet / flugelhorn; Kelly Green: vocals (6,8).