The New York City Jazz Record, May 2014, Page 16 by Marc Medwin
(Reprinted with Permission from The New York City Jazz Record)
The composer Dieter Schnebel’s innovative transcription of Schubert’s G-Major piano sonata includes a layer of harmonies, which, though not heard in the sonata, are present by implication. Pianist Kazzrie Jaxen’s treatment of standards on her new quartet disc employs similar complexities. The tunes are there, but Jaxen’s harmonies veil them in mystery while simultaneously illuminating them afresh via some of the most vital interpretations they have received in some time.
Jaxen, tenor saxophonist Charley Krachy, bassist Don Messina and drummer Bill Chattin made these recordings over several years, straight to DAT and never intending to make an album from them; but as the group-penned liners make plain, they were aware of something special as the recordings were assembled. There is something ethereal and yet down-to-earth as old tunes are made new, as when, to delve into only one representative example, Jaxen, Krachy and Messina swing into “All the Things You Are”, Krachy and Messina in relaxed and flowing counterpoint during the head. Chattin’s entrance kicks the swing up to the next level, glittering cymbals and perfectly-timed snare punctuations serving to place rock-solid bass drum and hi-hat in stark relief.
Yet, none of this explains how the music lifts off and floats amidst Krachy’s altered tones and over Messina’s pizzicato double stops, amazing in and of themselves. Much of the freedom must come down to Jaxen’s voicings. Despite her prodigious harmonic language, her allegiance to what the others are doing is always evident and she’s not so much pushing beyond rhythmic boundaries as using them as points of departure and return. It is a joy to hear how she weaves fragments of “What Is This Thing Called Love”’s melody into a solo of huge dynamic and harmonic contrast, almost forming a language of varying densities as Messina and Chattin lay the groundwork.
These recordings give new meaning to the words freedom and tradition, juxtaposing them in ways that render them useless. The recording is a no-nonsense audio portrait, leaving room for the playing to breathe and bloom. A great disc from an innovative ensemble.