Jordan Seigel – Beyond Images – Wonderbird Music

by | Nov 18, 2020 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Jordan Seigel – Beyond Images – Wonderbird Music stereo vinyl, 37:29 ****1/2:

(Jordan Seigel – piano; Alex Boneham – bass; Christian Euman – drums; Natsuki Sugiyama – alto saxophone, alto flute; Nick Mancini – vibes; Andrew Synowiec – guitar, mandolin; Brian Kilgore – percussion; Keely Bumford – vocals; Glen Berger – woodwinds; Brett McDonald – woodwinds; David Catalan – woodwinds; Jennifer Boyd – woodwinds; and The Vertigo String Quartet)

In a visual medium like motion pictures, context is essential. Film scores can provide a visceral element to enhance the themes and flow of cinema. Composers are capable of instilling an sudden impact on viewers. The menacing pulse in John Williams’ score for Jaws or Bernard Herrmann’s staccato violin accents in Psycho are essential parts of the movie experience.The soaring music by Maurice Jarre in Lawrence Of Arabia expanded the film’s grandiosity. Even comedic movies like The Pink Panther (Henry Mancini) were complemented by ingenious composing and arrangement. Duke Ellington’s compelling score for Anatomy Of A Murder was a cultural flashpoint for the jazz scene. In a unique and exciting new release (Beyond Images), jazz pianist/composer Jordan Seigel pays homage to various film composers who inspired his own film work (The Twilight Zone, Ant-Man And The Wasp, The LEGO Movie 2). In expressing his admiration for film scoring, Seigel doesn’t perform covers, but original jazz songs that reflect cinematic emotions. He has assembled a talented roster of players, including a basic quartet (Alex Boneham/bass; Christian Euman/drums and Natsuki Sugiyama/saxophone, flute). Additionally, there is a cadre of top-notch musicians to assist in this project.

Side A begins with a dedication to composer Jon Brian. Brion has worked with perhaps two of the most eclectic movie directors of all time, Charlie Kaufman (Synedoche) and Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia). Seigel meshes the controlled moods of cinema with the buoyant dynamics of jazz. Beneath a haunting theme and subtle hypnotic groove, a warm melody is translated with woodwind accents and crescendo-laden strings. Seigel’s piano notation is precise and expressive. In the nod to legendary composer John Williams, a visceral atmosphere (highlighted by alto, flute and vibes) eventually transitions to a 3/4 time signature. The listener can almost picture the Star Wars bar with a jazz combo. Even without reading the title, the opening notes of “Intro” captures the familiar essence of Randy Newman (exquisitely with woodwinds). “Lake House” is imbued with a sentimental heart and Americana musical background. The traditional slower waltz mode distills the tender, elegiac nuances of Newman’s work (The Natural, Ragtime). Small details like half-note step downs and a muscular left hand piano line elevate the arrangement. With cinematic flair, “The Woods” (dedicated to Bernard Herrmann) exudes dramatic tension with violin and piano counterpoint. A transition to a tango-infused movement conjures up images of classic Hollywood film. Seigel’s piano solo is outstanding and the inclusion of woodwinds and strings adds to the overall texture.

In a departure, Side Two kicks off with “No Chance”. Inspired by Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead/Paul Thomas Anderson), the song takes on alternative rock aesthetics with an ethereal vocal by Keely Bumford. The incorporation of strings and unconventional chord changes (even some dissonance) create a unique musical tapestry. Seigel injects a jazzy elegance on piano. In a playful turn, “Baker Street Caper” (homage to Henry Mancini) suggests guileful criminal shenanigans with its loping cadence. Pizzicato strings, vibes and a sultry saxophone combine in a finger-snapping, gliding rhythm that draws in the listener. Again, it is not derivative of Mancini scores, but embraces the spirit of them. The exploration of Ennio Morricone  (“Intro II/Song For Porter”) is breathtaking. The deliberate, gorgeous melody underscores the deep-rooted lyricism of Morricone’s greatest scores (The Mission). It exhibits both majestic and understated resonance. A double bass solo (Alex Boneham) and a sly Latin flow are memorable, as is Seigel’s delicate, airy piano.The finale (“The Abyss”) pays tribute to Thomas Newman (Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty). After a mildly pulsating start, Seigel articulates quiet solitude with a harmonic woodwind interlude. There is an agile flourish to add some depth.

Beyond Images is an accomplished jazz album with cultural and historical perspective.  

Side A: Departure (inspired by Jon Brion); Something’s Up (inspired by John Williams; Intro; The Lake House (inspired by Randy Newman); The Woods (inspired by Bernard Herrmann)

Side B: No Chance (inspired by Jonny Greenwood); The Baker Street Caper (inspired by Henry Mancini); Intro II; Song For Porter (inspired by Ennio Morricone); The Abyss (inspired by Thomas Newman)   

—Robbie Gerson

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