“Pacific Premieres” – Works of GORDON GOODWIN, VINCE MENDOZA, PATRICK WILLIAMS & JEREMY COHEN [TrackList follows] – Quartet San Francisco – ViolinJazz Recordings JCCD109 (9/24/13) *****:
I frankly generally shy away from string quartet recordings, but this one really caught my ear, similar to the very first Kronos Quartet album for Reference Recordings. Guamba, the closing eight-minute track from the leader of this string quartet, Jeremy Cohen, is for me the main attraction—inspired by his visit to the island of Guam (probably because of the tango influences in it)—but the other four selections are also first rate. They are all premiere recordings of the works by these California composers.
Gordon Goodwin is known for his Big Phat Band and other jazz-flavored music. He said he found it a challenge to write for a quartet without either a bass player or drummer, but the abilities of this quartet to swing mightily when required made him happy to have them involved in his music. The opening three-movement California Pictures is the most jazz-oriented of his two works here. It’s interesting that he chose the little beach community of Venice, CA for the third movement of this work.
Patrick Williams has also been involved with a terrific big band and doing arrangements for others. He found that the abilities of the Quartet San Francisco to effectively combine classical and jazz were unique and made it a treat for him to write for them. The String Quartet in Three Parts is an homage to three of the influences on Mendoza’s writing: Michael and Randy Brecker, guitarist Ralph Towner, and the leader of the group Earth, Wind and Fire: Maurice White. In the first movement he harkens to the sounds of Sly Stone and James Brown, in the second to the open intervals used by lyric guitarist Towner, and in the last movement he attempts to convey the rhythmic complexity, energy and drive of Earth, Wind and Fire.
The recording was made at Skywalker Sound and is the very best quality one could expect on a standard CD. On the back of the jewelbox-alternative packaging is “ILLEGAL TO SELL,” in such big letters I at first thought that was the title of the album.
California Pictures for String Quartet (Gordon Goodwin)
1. Oakland (6:24)
2. Carmel (3:31)
3. Venice (7:11)
String Quartet No. 1: Funky Diversions in Three Parts
4. Mike and Randy (5:44)
5. Towner (4:56)
6. Maurice White (5:10)
7. The Bay is Deep Blue (Patrick Williams) (8:26)
Three Stages for String Quartet (Gordon Goodwin)
8. Focus (3:02)
9. Contemplation (3:49)
10. Resolution (4:01)
11. Guamba (Jeremy Cohen) (7:56) with Larry Epstein, bass