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Leo Genovese – Argentinosaurus – Newvelle vinyl

Leo Genovese – Argentinosaurus – Newvelle NV006LP vinyl, 37:12 ****:

An intricate jazz pianist is captured on high quality vinyl! 

(Leo Genovese – piano; Esperanza Spalding – double bass, vocals; Jack DeJohnette – drums, melodica)

Jazz fans are known for their purist dedication to high-quality audio recording. The surge of vinyl records in the last few years supports this context. Jazz pianist Elan Mehler (with his business partner Jean-Christophe Morisseau) has taken this business model a step further. Jazz fans can buy 6 albums, exclusively by subscription, for $400. This “crowdfunding” approach is unique. The music is recorded digitally (at East Side Sound Studios) at 24-bit 88.2 kHz and then mixed to vinyl with analog consoles. The 180-gram vinyl pressing is done in France (MPO). The Kickstart label has released albums every two months and feature Frank Kimbrough, Jack DeJohnette, Don Friedman, Ben Allison, Noah Preminger and Leo Genovese.

Argentinosaurus is Genovese’s contribution to the Newvelle subscription series. It is an eclectic, complex assortment of musical interpretations that pushes the constraints of jazz genres. Side A opens with an original composition (“Chacarera Y Mas”) that features some vocals by Esperanza Spalding. After her ethereal singing, the complex integration of these instrumentalists takes hold. There are interludes, tempo shifts and pulsing undercurrents. Genovese displays both melodic and atonal resonance. DeJohnette’s delicate work on the drums is always noteworthy. “Cosmic Church” seems to be written in movements. The first part is somewhat traditional jazz (at least Genovese’s 21st-Century version), but there is a segue into a soulful middle section that includes some interesting tempo stops and a spirited right hand solo before the trio shifts “down” to a third movement with nimble double bass riffs and improvisational piano accents. DeJohnette displays artistry on his cymbals throughout the number.

“Lamento Del Limonero” (which is a reference to the pianist’s warm regard for dissonance) has an unusual 3/4 time signature that builds out from the “non-harmonic” base with an increasing modulation of intensity. The middle has some swing elements and a hypnotic resonance. Again, the chemistry of the trio is prevalent and brings it all together. On “Baile A Lo Divino”, DeJohnette complements Genovese on melodica early on to create organic funkiness. Then Genovese and Spalding interact with lyrical finesse that reflects their extensive collaborative sensibility. A breathtaking tapping cymbal is superb.

Side B features the most dynamic track on the LP, “Diableros”. This hard-charging up-tempo jam is driven by the strength of the doublebass and drumming. Genovese unleashes a muscular, percolating solo that is reminiscent of classic jazz pianists of the ‘50s. This cut showcases the trio as a unit and as individual players. DeJohnette gets a well-deserved solo. Spalding returns to sing on “Vidalita”. Genovese’s near abstract or avant-garde song construction is complemented by the elegant piano runs. The commitment of the trio to explore intricate arrangements is showcased on the title cut. The finale (“Ethiopian Blues”) represents another musical complexity with some funky, bluesier themes mixed in with graceful undertones.

The sound quality of this recording is exceptional. There is amazing clarity of sonics, especially on minor touches like the shimmer of a cymbal. The stereo mix is even. Packaging details include a luxurious oversize gatefold with a poem by Tracy K. Smith. The clear vinyl pressing is appealing to the eye. There are two photographs (one amazing landscape inside the gatefold) by legendary French photographer Bernard Plossu. Listeners will have to go online for the liner notes. This album is high-end with an equally high-end price tag.

TrackList:
Side A: Chacarera Y Mas; Cosmic Church; Lamento Del Limonero; Baile A Lo Divino
Side B: Diableros; Vidalita; Argentinosaurus; Ethiopian Blues

—Robbie Gerson

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