Adrian Cunningham – Jazz Speak – Arbors Records 

by | Oct 23, 2017 | Jazz CD Reviews

Adrian Cunningham – Jazz Speak – Arbors Records ARCD 19457 61:14****

An album that has a welcoming combination of measured and harmonic expression

( Adrian Cunningham – tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Ted Rosenthal – piano; John Clayton – bass; Jeff Hamilton – drums)

Multi-instrumentalist Adrian Cunningham’s latest release Jazz Speak takes a look at the jazz experience as a convergence of music and travel. As Cunningham says in the liner notes “ both music and travel takes you out of your comfort zone, stretch you, test you , and most importantly, connect you”.

Working with a top notch trio composed of pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist John Clayton, and drummer Jeff Hamilton, Cunningham brings his unique talent to a session of originals and other compatible material that are suitable to his high level of creativity. The album opens with one of those Cunningham originals “The Source” which speaks to a neighbourhood in Harlem to which the composer is attached. The number has a familiar bounce that is associated with the area and where Cunningham’s tenor sax delivers his interpretation with assurance. Each of the other band members chips in with a brief reassuring solo.

Two recognizable numbers follow and are given Cunningham’s crisp attention, namely the Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler standard “Let’s Fall In Love” and the wondrous “Mood Indigo” by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard. On the former, Cunningham uses his deft clarinet to tell a rippling story filled with arpeggios and eight notes. Pianist Rosenthal builds his solo around space and density. Cunningham continues his clarinet excursion on the latter number, and it is filled with a gloomy and concentrated tone. John Clayton embarks on his bass efforts with firm intonation, interwoven with Rosenthal’s piano meanderings.

With evocations of New Orleans, “Getting Down Uptown” takes a persistent and surging approach to the music with the composer’s tenor sax showing the way. Rosenthal’s collaborative and swinging piano is pushed along by Jeff Hamilton’s pulsating drumming. The title track “Jazz Speak” talks to the listener in a musical brief melody that mimics the spoken word such as “ ‘sup?” as a short form for “good evening, how are you?”.  So says Cunningham in the liner notes.

The final two cuts on the album provide an interesting contrast in style and tempo. Bud Powell’s “Tempus Fugit” which means time flies, dashes along at a blistering pace with Cunningham on flute in full bop mode. Pianist Rosenthal keeps up the ferocious tempo with aplomb. Finally “Janelle” comes from the repetoire of Australia’s premier rock band Cold Chisel. It is a languid affair, with Cunningham on tenor sax as he probes the number’s bluesy melodicism, supported by Rosenthal’s equally sensitive piano.

The Source
Let’s Fall InLove
Mood Indigo
Getting Down Uptown
Rachel’s Dance
Petite Fleur
Jazz Speak
Autumn Moon Over The Calm Lake
Tempus Fugit

—Pierre Giroux

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