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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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CURTIS NOWOSAD QUINTET

Dialectics

CELLAR LIVE RECORDS

 

 

1.Speak No Evil

2.Empirically Speaking

3.Dialectics

4.159 & St.Nick

5.A Casual Test

6.Reconciliation

7.Bye-Ya

8.Gleaning & Dreaming

9.I Remember You

Curtis Nowosad Quintet: Curtis Nowosad (drums), Jimmy Greene (tenor & soprano saxophones), Derrick Gardner (trumpet), Steve Kirby (acoustic bass), Will Bonness (piano) [43:08]

Kevin Sun’s liner notes for this neatly packaged thin cardboard sleeved disc of music set out to redefine the notion of ‘straight-ahead jazz’ that this music would usually be described as saying that it doesn’t really express everything that is going on within this genre. They argue that a more accurate description might be ‘neo-hard bop’ explaining that jazz is forever evolving since it the sum of the sensibilities of the various musicians who come together to make the music. In this situation Shakespeare is often called to mind as having an apt and pithy phrase that somehow sums up a sentiment perfectly; not for nothing is he known as the bard, and in this case it is obviously ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ that does it best. It’s all about the music after all and regardless of the label you come up with to describe it only listening will tell you what’s going on and determine your reaction to it. That said the music here is top notch whichever label may sum it up best and it is one of those discs you want to replay over and over again such is the excitement it causes. For me quartets and quintets are the size of preference since there’s just enough going on to avoid any muddied waters, with a real feel of ensemble playing.

Kicking off with Wayne Shorter’s Speak no Evil the disc nails its credentials to the mast and really sets the scene for everything that ensues with a compelling hard driven edge. The next five tracks prove that Winnipeg born Curtis Nowosad is no slouch when it comes to composition with each number eliciting that “don’t I know this” feeling when it’s clear you can’t. These are tunes other bands will surely want to play too such is their appeal and total musicality.

Joining Nowosad are no less than three professors at the University of Manitoba, Nowosad’s alma mata, including director of jazz studies, bassist Steve Kirby. International sax star Jimmy Greene also taught there all of which proves this band’s impeccable pedigree. I note with interest that the definition of disc’s title, and the third track, Dialectics, is a method of argument for resolving disagreement and there can be none concerning the value of the music on offer as all of it is of the highest quality. I note also that his debut disc was entitled The Sceptic and the Cynic which shows you that this drummer is a thinker and this is reflected in his music which delivers at every level.

When it comes to the three standards Nowosad stamps his own take on them so that the listener is encouraged to see them in a new and exciting way. For instance Bye-Ya, Monk’s typically quirky tune is given an Afro-Cuban makeover that gives it a new lease of life. The penultimate tune and another of Curtis’ originals is a beautiful one that allows each musician his own space, as all the other tracks do and Jimmy Greene’s soprano sax solo is a dream. The last track gives us a standard in the shape of I Remember You with just enough originality to make you listen anew but that doesn’t take liberties and that shows you what this band is really about. It is a band that should be kept on any jazz lover’s radar and I sincerely hope that we’ll hear a lot more from it.

Steve Arloff



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