Tag Archives: Rob Reich

Village Voice’s Jazz Consumer Guide by Tom Hull

Darren Johnston – The Edge of the Forestv (CF 133)
Ben Goldberg’s clarinet takes flight immediately, with Sheldon Brown adding extra oomph on tenor sax and bass clarinet while the leader pokes in bits of trumpet and lays in wait for his breaks. This is postbop that looks forward, with such a broad range of moves and details that you have to credit the composer. These days, virtually all jazz musicians claim that title, but few convince you it matters.
http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-11-24/music/jazz-consumer-guide-loosening-or-tightening-up/

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Cadence Magazine review by Jason Bivins

CF 133Darren Johnston – The Edge of the Forest (CF 133)
The tight charts and pert rhythmic playfulness of “The Edge of the Forest” recall a Philip Johnston session in some ways. Namesake Darren has a catholic approach to his instrument, brash mute work here, tiny chirrups there, bold lines amidst it all. In his range, he recalls Herb Robertson, and also in his puckishness—check out his flatulent statement to begin “Broken” (flatulent is good, in case you’re wondering). While the leader is a pleasure to listen to, it’s also always a delight to hear Goldberg in this kind of Free Bop setting. The three-horn line (with the resourceful Brown) kills throughout, sometimes in punchy little groupings (the opener) and sometimes in wild untethered sections (amidst the funk of “Broken”). A constant to this session is the band’s freedom with tempo, even as Hoff and Dobson are winningly crisp (think Pavone/Sarin in a lot of ways). But regardless of the flexibility of the group sound, the charts stand out too with their winking blend of Herbie Nichols, Raymond Scott, and Lacy. There’s some gorgeous work from Hoff in a duet with Goldberg on the bottom-heavy “Foggy,” whose nicely melancholy accordion hints at European folk forms. The same is true of the quizzical “Cabin 5,” whose staggered pulse and buoy-ant character suggest a Breuker influence (a trumpet/tenor line both sassy and understated lolls along gently, as Goldberg rides the pulse). They pull back on the dark-hued “Edge of the Forest” and the intense closer, but overall it’s a disc filled with energy, invention, and humor.
©Cadence Magazine 2009 www.cadencebuilding.com

Jazz’n’More review by Jürg Solothurnmann

CF 133DARREN JOHNSTON – The Edge of the Forest (CF 133)
Note: 5

Johnston, ein Kanadier in San Francisco, ist als Trompeter und Komponist ein Mann mit Zukunft. Er hat schon intensiv mit Solisten wie Fred Frith, Larry Ochs und Myra Melford gearbeitet; zentral aber sind sein „Nice Guy Trio“ (mit Akkordeonist Reich) und das Quintett. Seine markanten Ideen als Komponist und Arrangeur stehen deutlich im Dienst der Improvisation. Der kreative Eklektiker macht auch Theatermusik und absorbiert die Tradition von New Orleans bis Rock, Free Music und klassischer Moderne. Geschickte Kniffe vermeiden die Banalität. Die Rhythmen sind ebenso stark wie sie eiern und das musikalische Geschehen nimmt oft unerwartete, asymmetrische Wendungen. Spannung schaffen Gegensätze wie tonal Themen und Hintergründe gegen freie Improvisationen oder repetierte lebhafte Rhythmik gegen schwebende Lyrizismen. Ebenso die häufigen Wechsel  zwischen Grooves, Rubato und Fermaten. „Be The Frog“ macht z.B. den Anfang mit einem 9er Rhythmus und einem dissonant gesetzten Thema, was an George Russell erinnert. Johnstons Solo hat die spröde Gesanglichkeit Booker Littles. Es stochert fast sprechend in engen Intervallen. Mit seinem Ende versiegt auch der Beat. Dann beginnen sich Tenorsax und Klarinette pointilistisch zu umspielen und alles wächst zur Kollektivimprovisation, die zurück zum synkopischen Neuner führt, aber mit offenem Ende. – Das Schlagzeug ist meistens ziemlich diskret; der Bass aber wuchtig. Ausgezeichnet auch Ben Goldberg (bekannt mit seinem freien Klezmer-Jazz) und der hier noch kaum bekannte Sheldon Brown, ein musikalischer Nachbar Joe Lovanos. – Ein abenteuerliches, aber gut zugängliches Debut von Johnston.

Jazz Review review by Glenn Astarita

cf-1332Darren Johnston – The Edge Of The Forest (CF 133)
While earning his Master’s degree at Mills College in Oakland, CA., trumpeter Darren Johnston studied under guitarist, improvising great Fred Frith and bassist extraordinaire Joelle Leandre.  Yet, his studies and absorptions of jazz-related music encompass a broad plane of ideas and applications.  And after listening to this superb album, it is easy to discern that the artist breathes a nouveau mindset into the jazz vernacular, to augment his enviable technical acumen.

Johnston leads a sextet that covers innumerable angles and dishes out an abundance of striking contrasts.  With hefty injections of counterpoint amid European hued folk foundations and hardcore progressive jazz implementations, the leader imparts a commanding presence throughout.  He affords his band generous soloing opportunities to complement sequences of circular themes and blustery breakouts.

On the piece titled “Foggy,” Johnston abets a thrusting mélange of motifs, interspersed with Rob Reich’s buoyant accordion lines, as drummer Smith Dobson V proceeds to tear it all up. Otherwise, Johnston is a fluent soloist who possesses a brazen tone to coincide various works that are engineered atop North African modalities and pumping rhythmic exercises. 

Several movements feature tenor saxophonist Sheldon Brown’s ascending choruses that spark multicolored overtones in concert with the ensemble’s pop, sizzle and tightly-focused group based sound.  Other works are devised on melodically pronounced free-bop jaunts and knotty pulses.  But the septet’s precision oriented outlook is occasionally tempered with a loose vibe. 

Sure enough, Johnston is onto something here.  It’s an emotionally charged program, peppered with unanticipated storylines and a seamless fusion of disparate underpinnings.  Johnston triumphantly fuses a cerebral outlook that yields an entertaining outcome. 
http://www.jazzreview.com/cd/review-20525.html

All About Jazz Italy review by Giuseppe Segala

cf-1331Darren Johnston – The Edge of the Forest (CF 133)
****

Nato nell’Ontario, ma attivo musicalmente nell’area californiana, il trombettista Darren Johnston ha collaborato con i musicisti del Rova Saxophone Quartet, con Fred Frith, Myra Melford e Ben Goldberg. Quest’ultimo è presente nella formazione che ha registrato The Edge of the Forest, un quintetto che Johnston ha selezionato con cura per la propria musica, giungendo a risultati eccellenti.
L’organico riunisce quattro fiati, affidati a tre solisti, in grado di fornire una gamma timbrica ampia e articolata: tromba, clarinetto, sax tenore o clarinetto basso. A questi si affianca una ritmica senza pianoforte, quanto di meglio per dare respiro a composizioni ricche di spunti. 

Le coordinate sulle quali si muove la musica di Johnston sono evidenti fin dal primo brano dell’album: un sapiente incastro tra il ritmo in cinque movimenti, scandito dal contrabbasso e contrappuntato da tromba e sax, con il tema melodico espresso dal clarinetto. Tutto si arricchisce e si addensa nel corso del brano, con l’ingresso della batteria, l’assolo della tromba e la libera digressione affidata al duetto delizioso di sax tenore e clarinetto. Il quintetto ha un proprio carattere ben definito, in grado di modellare trame dense e sontuose ambientazioni timbriche.

Clarinetto basso e contrabbasso disegnano una trama ritmica complessa in “Foggy,” dove l’intervento della fisarmonica, presente solo in questo brano, apre uno squarcio intenso di lirismo e spiritualità. Ciò che caratterizza e rende interessante la musica di Johnston è l’alternanza tra la densità di certi arrangiamenti, in cui fiati e ritmi sono guidati con grande maestria, e le sequenze rarefatte, affidate a piccoli sottoinsiemi o a strumenti singoli, che sprigionano la creatività dei solisti. Tali modalità, con l’alternanza e la compenetrazione di episodi a densità variabile, ricordano la lezione dei chicagoani storici, come “Muhal” Richard Abrams e Henry Threadgill. I risultati sono però diversi, fanno pensare anche a Jimmy Giuffre, Dave Douglas, Dave Holland, pur mantenendo una propria fisionomia e un carattere ben definito. La spontaneità e la freschezza che si respirano scaturiscono da una sintonia intensa dei musicisti.

Musica che guarda con sobrietà a orizzonti nuovi, pur senza ignorare una forte spinta alla comunicazione. “Broken,” un vero cammeo incastonato nel centro del disco, si dipana su un disegno sfilacciato tra i fiati, dopo un’introduzione di corpo formidabile della tromba, e giunge solo nel finale al suo tema denso, vigoroso, assertivo. Il tema propulsivo appare invece subito in “Apple,” esposto prima dalla tromba, poi dai fiati insieme. Il denso tempo ternario di “The Edge of the Forest” è un veicolo ideale per i notevoli interventi di Goldberg e di Johnston.

Non meno degne delle sue qualità di scrittura, sono le doti solistiche del leader, che richiama Douglas ma anche Steven Bernstein, con timbri spessi, carnosi, materici, e un fraseggio nervoso, errabondo. Ben Goldberg e Sheldon Brown sono perfetti nel loro apporto. Devin Hoff è un bassista dalle doti melodiche notevoli e Smith Dobson V alla batteria è un prodigio di finezza e profondità. La sua scansione dal feeling vicino a Elvin Jones introduce l’ultimo brano del disco, il più vicino allo spirito di Threadgill. Uno scrigno di sorprese, di creatività ispirata, a tratti sfrenata.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=3812

Point of Departure review by Stuart Broomer

cf-133Darren Johnston – The Edge of the Forest (CF 133)
Darren Johnston is a Bay-area trumpeter who has studied at Mills College and has worked and recorded with some distinguished company, including Adam Lane and OrchestRova. He has previously recorded a single CD as leader, Reasons for Moving (NotTwo) with a quintet that included Fred Frith and Larry Ochs. While that recording placed an emphasis on improvisation, there’s a greater concentration on Johnston’s compositions here, executed here by his regular quintet – Ben Goldberg, clarinet; Sheldon Brown, bass clarinet and tenor; Devin Hoff, bass; and Smith Dobson V, drums.

As both composer and trumpeter Johnston seems to come from some of the best places, Don Cherry and Booker Little, though the latter influence may be transmuted through Kenny Wheeler and Dave Douglas. Perhaps because of the quality of those forebears, Johnston already has his own sound and sense of form. The sound is tart, at times to the point of acidic, and it contributes to the intensity and focus of his lines, which are consistently probing, always reaching towards form. He can use mutes to touch on the timbres of early jazz as well as using extended techniques to stretch momentarily towards multiphonics. There’s a certain Klezmer-like quality to his compositions, often rooted in minor keys and emphasized by the sound of Goldberg’s dry clarinet. Added to that there’s a certain spikiness and jerkiness, a mix of the pensive and kinetic that can suggest both post-bop and the music of Hanns Eisler. There are frequent collisions in Johnston’s conflicting rhythms and figures, but that too is relieved by moments of lightly consonant swing.

Given the amount of thought that Johnston is clearly putting into his work, it’s a relief that it rarely sounds studied. The compositions act as triggers for consistently taut improvisation, from the rhythmic dance between horn and rhythm to improvised solo against composed ensembles to some stunning collective improvisations that—aided by Goldberg’s slithering clarinet–are joyous enough to suggest a free jazz take on New Orleans polyphony. Few musicians could get as much out of a small ensemble: the opening “Be the Frog” is filled with timbral contrasts, including the unison figures that rise to meet Johnston’s trumpet solo; “Foggy,” with the addition of Rob Reich’s accordion, effectively alternates lead voices against ensemble punctuations in a way that’s genuinely orchestral. Micro-groupings also figure in Johnson’s strategies, from an unaccompanied segment of clarinet and tenor to a pensive interlude of bass clarinet and string bass. Johnston even takes the unusual step of having the final “Sippin’ with Lou” end with the ensemble fading into silence until Brown’s wistful tenor is left starkly alone. It’s as beautiful as it is unlikely.  
http://www.pointofdeparture.org/PoD21/PoD21MoreMoments2.html

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

cf-133Darren Johnston – The Edge of the Forest (CF 133)
Canadian-born Darren Johnston was recently chosen by Down Beat Magazine as one of 25 Trumpeters of the Future. Currently working in the Bay Area’s fertile new music scene, Johnston is a prime example of the new generation’s eclectic interpretation of the jazz tradition. After acquiring his Master’s in composition from Mills College in Oakland, California, Johnston went on to hone his craft with such legends as Fred Frith, Myra Melford and Rova. Besides recordings of his collaborative work, The Edge of the Forest is his first session as a leader.

A number of these pieces originated as dance commissions, revealing a rich balance between rhythmic ingenuity and intricate, yet tuneful melodic concepts. Assisting in the interpretation of these sublime works are veteran clarinetist Ben Goldberg, saxophonist Sheldon Brown, bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Smith Dobson V. A magnanimous leader who provides ample solo time to his sidemen, Johnston himself demonstrates an architecturally sound approach; on “Broken,” he unfurls a series of cascading lines that radiate audacious tonalities without abandoning melodic structure.

While Johnston’s trumpet playing is warmly expressive and thematically concise, it is his elaborate writing and creative arranging that stands out. Layering contrapuntal melody lines into cantilevered rhythms and shifting time signatures, Johnston’s tunes eschew conventional structures in favor of a more narrative approach. On “Be the Frog,” Johnston’s buttery trumpet solo dominates the first half of the tune until the ensemble temporarily subsides, revealing a rousing, unaccompanied duet between Brown’s muscular tenor and Goldberg’s woody clarinet, before regrouping for the coda.

Tunes like “Be the Frog,” “Foggy” and “Broken” expose their dance-oriented beginnings with interlocking counter-harmonies and infectious lock-step vamps, while the ebullient post-bop of “Apples” acts a vehicle for Brown’s tortuous tenor. Revealing a meditative side, Johnston’s honeyed trumpet refrains and Goldberg’s sinuous clarinet musings exude billowy lyricism on the introspective title track. “Sippin’ With Lou” bridges the gap, segueing from coiled angles, capricious tempo changes and frenzied collective improvisation into an atmospheric and dreamy finale.

Despite the sophistication of his writing, Johnston is a keen tunesmith whose melodic sensibility never falters, drawing equally from nostalgic brass charts, knotty post-bop lines, simmering funk ostinatos and exotic harmonies. The Edge of the Forest is a brilliant example of where jazz is headed—adventurous and unpredictable, yet always accessible. Darren Johnston is definitely one of the top trumpeters of the future.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=31675