Jazz CD Reviews

Aaron Irwin Group – Blood and Thunder – Fresh Sound New Talent

The nerdy-looking Aaron Irwin delivers jazz of uncommon depth and attractiveness

Published on January 6, 2009

Aaron Irwin Group – Blood and Thunder – Fresh Sound New Talent
Aaron Irwin Group – Blood and Thunder – Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 320, 55:40 *****:

(Aaron Irwin – alto sax; Chris Cheek – tenor sax; Ben Monder – guitar; Matt Clohesy – bass; Ferenc Nemeth – drums; Eliza Cho – violin [track 9])

Managing to sound old-timey and completely up-to-date all at once, leader Aaron Irwin and his group mine a similar vein to some of Ted Nash’s music, as well as that of, say, the Tin Hat Trio.  What we’ve got here is quite attractive faux-antique jazz—carefully composed, arranged, and played—yet always sounding fresh and spontaneous.

A number of things make this disc stand out: the exceptional musicianship of the band, especially the inimitable Ben Monder on guitar and the equally adept Ferenc Nemeth on drums; the wacked-out compositions, notably the demented title cut, “Blood and Thunder,” itself worth the price of admission; and the pretzel-logic arrangements (“Sprung,” e.g., with its doubled alto sax/bass coda).  Surface naïveté masking deep sophistication—that what’s happening going down on this remarkable disc.  Check out, e.g., the irresistibly effortless “Back to You,” sounding like updated Western swing with its lazy Big Lebowski/Sam Elliot vibe.  Very attractive.  “Little Hurts” engages in a bit of high dudgeon, snake-charming its way into one’s sensibilities with its sinuous dual horn/guitar figures and generally ominous disposition.  The Monkish “Sprung” dances along crazily like a drunken sailor, bobbing and weaving its way through one’s ears.  One can scarcely believe “Until We Say Our Last Goodbye” isn’t the theme to some forgotten Bogey/Bacall classic.

The boys have quite a way with standards as well.  Cole Porter’s “From This Moment On” gets a deeply swinging yet slightly off-kilter reading, while the Bill Evans classic “Very Early” beguiles with its effortless pulse and diaphanous mood.

Blood and Thunder is deceptively simple music that rewards careful listening and, in the end, delivers big-time payoffs.

Like the Sunshine
The Wizard
Blood and Thunder
Back to You
From This Moment On
Little Hurts
Very Early
Until We Say Our Last Goodbye

– Jan P. Dennis

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