The FOURTH installment of Carl Saunders’ New Jazz Standards…
Larry Koonse, Guitar
Josh Nelson, Piano
Tom Warrington, Bass
Joe LaBarbera, Drums
Its not a stretch to see how a great improviser can also be a great composer. After all an improviser is using the same compositional elements as a composer in real time. What is amazing in terms of Carl Saunders’ compositional world is that there is such a huge range of musical offerings. There is the lyrical “A Ballad for Now”, the dark and surreal (“Dark Blanket”), the humorous (“Baby Blues”), the nod to Jobim and Bill Evans (“A Poor Man’s Mr. Evans”), the traditional song with twists (“DoBeDoBeDo”), and the harmonically sophisticated (“Another Side of Her”). Each a beautifully crafted gem.
To help Koonse to fully realize these lyrical yet tricky puzzles created by Saunders, he immediately contacted his dear friend Josh Nelson. Josh is a musician that is always thinking orchestrationally and is more than willing to not use all ten fingers when the moment calls for it. Great listener, supportive accompanist, brilliant harmonic mind …… They got together in one long session and thought of ways to bring out the character of each piece within the limits of a guitar/piano based quartet w/ life-long friends Tom Warrington and Joe La Barbera. Both consummate musicians who Koonse has a long track record with and always play from the perspective of “what does this musical moment need now” as opposed to “look at me now”.
Extremely accessible and enjoyable…
JUST LIKE THE FIRST THREE in the Series…
“Every time I receive a copy of an album in the New Jazz Standards series, I know I’m going to be in for a treat—and I haven’t been wrong yet. Some context: New Jazz Standards is the title of a collection of jazz compositions by Carl Saunders. The series of recordings under that name consists of albums by soloists hand-picked by Saunders, who has produced all of the albums so far as well. Each album features a different leader; in this case, it’s guitarst Larry Koonse, who leads a quartet that also includes pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Tom Warrington, and legendary drummer Joe LaBarbera. It might seem a bit arrogant to call a collection of one’s own work “new jazz standards,” but Saunder has more than demonstrated that he has the right; his tunes are straight-ahead in style but modern and creative (note in particular his sly structural innovations on “Baby Blues”), and his melodic creativity is really without peer. Koonse himself is clearly in love with these compositions, and his performances are filled with new ideas of his own while never losing touch with the essence of the tunes. This is one of the best jazz albums I’ve heard all year.”
-Rick Anderson for CD HOTLIST
New Jazz Standards – Sam Most
New Jazz Standards Vol 2 – Scott Whitfield
This fourth volume in a series of recordings saluting and promoting the music of trumpeter Carl Saunders is every bit as sophisticated and attractive as its predecessors. Guitarist Larry Koonse leads the way through a dozen songs with supreme style and grace, comfortably placing this collection right next to earlier Saunders sets helmed by flutist Sam Most, trombonist Scott Whitfield, and pianist Roger Kellaway.
Koonse, fronting a first-rate quartet filled out by pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Tom Warrington, and drummer Joe LaBarbera, is in prime form throughout. Relaxed and focused all at once, he brings depth and clarity to these compositions while highlighting a synergy between sympathetic souls. Opening on the rhythmically-hinged “Flim Flam,” this crew immediately finds its collective footing by making the hits and turning toward swing. Then “A Poor Man’s Mister Evans” makes an appearance, highlighting the chemistry between Koonse and Nelson while saluting Bill Evans.
From there, many an angle of Saunders’ work is given its due. The chipper side of his personality comes to the fore on “Do Be Do Be Do” and “Admired.” Lyrical quietude wins out on “A Ballad For Now” and the calmly waltzing “Another Side Of Her.” Explorations of an essential form and color give shape to “Baby Blues” and “Could Be The Blues.” And straight-eighth sway catches the breeze and the ear on “Speaking Softly.” No matter the matter, Koonse and company rise to the occasion. When you place this man’s guitar and bandmates against Saunders’ music, it’s simply class on class.
Track Listing: Flim Flam; A Poor Man’s Mister Evans; Do Be Do Be Do; A Ballad For Now; Admired; Another Side Of Her; Baby Blues; Speaking Softly; Diddy Bop; Hipnicity; Dark Blanket; Could Be The Blues.
Personnel: Larry Koonse: guitar; Josh Nelson: piano; Tom Warrington: bass; Joe LaBarbera: drums.
-ALL ABOUT JAZZ
RINGER OF THE WEEK:
Here’s an album that amply displays the strengths of the LA Jazz scene. Guitarist Larry Koonse is always seen at some local club, as well as the teammates here in pianist Josh Nelson (who’s one of the most in-demand accompanists for vocalists), the dependable Tom Warrington on bass and Bill Evans’ last drummer, the sublimely swinging Joe LaBarbera. Not in the band, but trumpeter Carl Saunders is also present here in that all of the songs are from his pen. The result is a melodic and lyrical gem of sophisticated swing.
Koonse alternates between nylon and electric guitars here, with a Wes Montgomery swing feel on the hip pieces “Flim Flam,” “Could Be The Blues” and “Hipnicity.” The team does some delicate and pretty things on Tin Pan Alley-influenced ditties such as the cozy “Do Be Do Be Do” and “Diddy Bop” with Koonse sounding gorgeous on nylon for the tender “A Ballad For You.” LaBarbera’s high hat leads to a slinky “Baby Blues” and creates a supporting pilaf for the Latin “Speaking Softly.” Most successful of all is the evocative duet between Koonse and Nelson for the tranquil “A Poor Man’s Mister Evan’s” with the partners engaging in a clever conversation on a MENSA level. And, the best part of this album is that you don’t have to fight the LA traffic to take in the tunes!
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