Eddie Mendenhall – Cosine Meets Tangent – Miles High Records MHR8614, 53:48 ****½:

(Eddie Mendenhall – piano; Mark Sherman – vibes; Akira Tana – drums; John Schifflett – bass)

Eddie Mendenhall started studying piano at age four.  He was performing classical works of Schumann and Beethoven at his school at age eight.  Eddie was thirteen when he discovered jazz while involved with the Monterey Jazz Festival.  He began playing professionally while in high school. Eddie joined the Monterey Jazz Festival High School All-Star Band and had the opportunity to accompany Dizzy Gillespie at the main stage of the festival.   He had several scholarships that landed him at the Berklee College of Music at Boston.  He graduated with a Bachelors degree in Jazz Composition.  Eddie moved to Tokyo and was involved in the jazz scene there for seven years.   In that time he had several steady gigs in famous hotels in Tokyo.  He attributes this solo playing time to helping him develop his own style.  He moved back to the states and one of his gigs was performing with the Ray Brown Great Big Band for about five years.  In 2008 Eddie began playing organ.  Eddie’s influences are Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Hank Jones, Hampton Hawes and Bill Evans.  He has played with “Senator” Eugene Wright, Pete Christlieb, the Manhattan Jazz Quintet and many others.  Eddie currently directs the jazz department at the Monterey Peninsula College in California.

Cosine Meets Tangent is Eddie Mendenhall’s first album as the leader.  This is a great quartet of accomplished musicians.  The astounding thing about this recording is Mendenhall arranged the recording date and the musicians came together and recorded this album without rehearsal.  I have had a fascination with the vibraphone since I was a senior in high school.  I was up close and personal with one that a high school buddy had at home.  Good artists can do wonderful things in jazz with them and Mark Sherman’s performance here is a great example.  Eddie Mendenhall composed eight of the ten tracks.  There is one standard and one composition by Mark Sherman.  This is all new jazz with the exception of the standard.

“Protocol” of course lays down the first sounds of this quartet.  It is upbeat and the rhythm changes and harmonic voicing keep you alert to what the group is presenting which is a happy, jazz sound.  The musicians totally play well with and off each other.

“Spring Waltz” begins with Eddie and Mark trading off with each other’s playing then comes some great bass lines from John Schifflett.  This is not dance music; it is really well performed modern jazz. “Rain Hike” has a decidedly nice Latin rhythm to it.  It is a bit on the samba side and very enjoyable with the nice background percussion from drummer Tana.  Eddie and Mark trade off soloing through this piece.

“Blues for Yokohama” is a medium quick rhythmic piece of jazz again with Eddie chording behind Mark as he lays down the melody.  Eddie then takes a turn on piano and all the while John keeps time, walking his bass with Akira on drums.  Then John and Akira change off soloing.  The quartet comes back together again laying down the blues theme.

“So Easy to Remember” is an old Rodgers and Hart ballad very sentimentally played by the quartet.  There again is the familiar trade off of solos between Eddie and Mark.  Listening to this, the lyrics were running through my mind, “So easy to remember, and so hard to forget”.  Simply priceless.

“Lament for the Ocean” was composed by Eddie as a response to the Gulf oil spill in 2010.  Lament is not a joyous song as most of Eddie’s compositions but I felt a sense of sweet sadness.  It contains changes in rhythm with a gentle waltz like theme throughout the song.

“The Great Triplet” was composed by vibraphonist Mark Sherman.  It is a nice swinger with Eddie and Mark often playing in unison then spinning off to their solos.  They are aptly backed by the rhythm section of bassist John Schifflett and drummer Akira Tana.

“Cosine Meets Tangent” is the title track of this album and is the culmination of the album finishing with the final touch and you truly get the feel of Eddie’s style of jazz.  Eddie leads the trio (sans vibraphone) through the first part then trades alternating solos with drummer Akira Tana.  There are lots of rhythm changes that really keep your attention.  Great Stuff!

Cosine Meets Tangent
is a remarkable presentation both in music and the skills of these talented musicians.  I am always awed at performances by artists who meld together to make music, and this is expressed in this album.  The album contains interesting liner notes from Eddie Mendenhall about this project and his compositions.  The sound quality is excellent, making truly a great album.

TrackList:
  Protocol; Spring Waltz; Rain Hike; Blues for Yokohama; So Easy to Remember; Rin Ki Ou Hen (Japanese for “adapt to the circumstances); Lament for the Ocean; The Great Triplet; Morning Stretch; Cosine Meets Tangent.

— Tim Taylor