Jon Cowherd – Gateway – Newvelle Records

Jon Cowherd – Gateway – Newvelle Records NV009LP – 180 gm vinyl – ***1/2

A reoccurring theme of expressive freedom – Jon Cowherd – Gateway

(Jon Cowherd – piano; Steve Cardenas – guitar; Tony Scherr – bass; Brian Blade – drums)

An overriding theme found on all of the Newvelle Records LP subscription series, on audiophile quality vinyl, is open and free expression. The leaders are paired with accompanying musicians who share a goal of exploring primarily jazz with open ears in blending blues, ethnic, world, and classical motifs. Newvelle often provides online videos that show the musicians, in studio, deep in concentration but always in a near rapturous state knowing that they have open rein, free of industry interference.

This freedom in on full display on the latest Newvelle release, from pianist Jon Cowherd. It’s in a quartet setting with piano, guitar, bass, and drums. Jon wrote all the compositions except for “Memorial Day,” written by drummer, Brian Blade. Guitarist, Steve Cardenas is featured prominently, and he brings a lyrical intensity, reminiscent of Pat Metheny. Tony Scherr is rock solid on bass, and Brian Blade provides the ballast that both inspires and propels the group. Brian and Jon go all the way back to the 90s when they were part of The Fellowship Band.

The title track finds Cowherd’s playing both dynamic and muscular. The sound mix is outstanding and the presence of the bass is strongly felt. Cardenas is locked into the groove with its gorgeous melody. Blade changes patterns often. Blade’s “Memorial Day” is somewhat somber with a mood of anticipation. Blade provides a heavy back beat as the musical tension begins to ratchet up. The drums are very well miked.

“Wandering Heart” is both elegant and pristine, and Scherr’s bass solo completes the picture. Cowherd provides three piano improvisations simply titled 1, 2, and 3. Each sets a mood, and I found both gospel and American folk themes explored.

“Warriors” provides the opportunity for piano, guitar, and drums to stretch out a bit. I found Jon’s playing here to be his most forceful on the album alongside “Braun’s Bronco.” That track has the quartet busting loose, really rocking, especially Cardenas’ blistering guitar. “A Beautiful Something” provides a divine ensemble blend with the bass centered in the mix, and the guitar leading the way.

This quartet is clearly having fun, egos aside, letting the improvisation speak for itself.

Tracklist:
Side A:
Gateway
Piano Improvisation #1
Memorial Day
Wandering Heart

Side B:
WarriorsA Beautiful Something
Piano Improvisation #2
Braun’s Bronco
Piano Improvisation #3

—Jeff Krow

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