Sophisticated Lady – Jazz Quartet – Yarlung Records 65004 (Distr. by Naxos), 67:28 ****:
(J.J. Kirkpatrick – trumpet, Flugelhorn; Misha Adair Bigos – piano; Gary Wicks – bass; Andrew Boyle – drums)
Four masters students in the USC music program have formed a jazz band. Trumpeter J.J. Kirkpatrick (from Portland, Oregon) has played with Wynton Marsalis, among others. Pianist Misha Adair (from Seattle) established himself by passing on his recital to perform at the Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood. Bassist Gary Wicks (from Albany, New York) has performed with Manhattan Transfer for over five years. Completing the quartet is drummer Andrew Boyle who is involved in teaching and performing. All four players are skilled at arrangement, composition and improvisation. Sophisticated Lady was signed to Yarlung Records, best known for their minimalistic, technical approach to recording. They have released their first album.
Sophisticated Lady – Jazz Quartet is a rare combination of traditional jazz and modern recording technology. Combining original compositions and songs from jazz history, the quartet recorded the material in the Dornsife Brain and Creativity Institute at USC. The tracks are “live to tape” without editing or digital enhancement. This sort of intimacy is imbedded in the feel of the arrangements. The opening cut is a popular opus, “I’m Old Fashioned”, that has become a jazz staple over the years (including George Shearing, John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck, Hank Jones and McCoy Tyner). After a cool jazz opening by pianist, Misha Adair, trumpeter J.J. Kilpatrick delivers medium-swing lead on trumpet. The rhythm section fills in neatly behind him. At the 3:00 mark, Adair takes over with a deft solo. Bassist Gary Wicks also contributes a nimble solo. One of two Ellington covers, “Isfahan” (one of the last collaborations between the Duke and Billy Strayhorn) represents an unconventional choice. Not one of the swing classics, this quartet settles into an atmospheric, relaxed groove. Kirkpatrick embraces the melody in evocative tones, while Adairs’ fluid piano style interacts effortlessly with the melody. “Strange Fruit” long associated with Billie Holiday is served up as a Latin-tinged samba with great improvisational acuity.
There are several original numbers that are captivating. Drummer Andrew Boyle contributes two songs. “Green Eyed Monster” is harmonic and filled with trumpet/piano counterpoint. “Gone” is a hushed ballad, nudged along with Boyle’s gentle brush strokes. Pianist Adair contributes three unusually complex tunes. “Ropes Of Sand” has a haunting quality and seems to capture the group at its most creative. “Finale” has that crisp, swinging quality of a Brubeck jam with well-time bold strokes. “Fields Of Kurdistan” demonstrates the nuanced flow of a classical piece of music, but with some bluesy flair. All three maintain their freshness after subsequent plays. Bassist Wicks creates a meditative lullaby on “Night Night”, while “Weightless” emphasizes early Miles Davis chord structures (as stated in the incisive liner notes).
Sophisticated Lady – Jazz Quartet is great jazz that also sounds great. The acoustics are precise, and the instrumentation has superior tonality.. Liner notes discuss the formation of the band and audiophile details like microphone placement.
TrackList: I’m Old Fashioned; Gone; Isfahan; For Andrew; Strange Fruit; Rapes Of Sand; Finale; Green Eyed Monster; Night Night; Sophisticated Lady; Weightless; Fields Of Kurdistan