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2nd Avenue :
The Return of The Cello Quartet

Capri Records 74137-2



  1. Thingin'

  2. Home

  3. I'm An Old Cowhand

  4. I Wish I Knew

  5. Evergreenish

  6. The Lamp Is Low

  7. Hit It

  8. My Conception

  9. 2nd Avenue: Blues For Imahori

Joshua Breakstone - Guitar

Lisle Atkinson - Bass

Andy Watson - Drums

Mike Richmond - Cello (tracks 1-3, 5, 7)

Electric guitarist Joshua Breakstone is New York based, hence the title of this album. 2nd Avenue, for the uninitiated, is situated in Manhattan and over the years Breakstone has lived at several different addresses in that neighbourhood. It has proved to be fertile ground for chance meetings with those of a like mind and its place in the title is a recognition of its importance for Breakstone. The sub-title tells us that we are revisiting the musical territory explored in his album, With the Wind and the Rain, issued by Capri in 2014. In other words, Breakstone, Lisle Atkinson on bass and Andy Watson on drums, all thoroughly experienced jazz practitioners, are joined by cellist Mike Richmond to form what could be described as a chamber jazz quartet. Richmond, for long known as a bassist and jazz educator, here departs from orthodoxy by playing the cello pizzicato, namely by plucking the instrument, instead of using the bow. The line-up includes Richmond on five of the nine tracks, the rest consisting of Breakstone's basic trio. The result is never less than engrossing.

My particular favourites, among a wealth of possibilities, are I'm An Old Cowhand and I Wish I Knew, both standards. There is a pacey performance of I'm An Old Cowhand, worth comparing with the Sonny Rollins version. The guitar is played con brio and the cello plucked with bluesy lan. A thoroughly enjoyable track. I Wish I Knew is one for the trio. This lovely standard is explored by Breakstone, with sensitivity and style, in a Latin vein, aided and abetted by the supportive bass of Lisle Atkinson and the delicate percussion of Andy Watson. Having mentioned stand-out tracks, Hit It, an original by Lisle Atkinson, famously recorded by pianist Horace Parlan in 1977, as well as by the bassist himself, is also one to appreciate. Atkinson contributes a solo which shows his quality, Breakstone is as fluent as ever and cello and drums play their full part (I liked Andy Watson's virile contribution). The number reaches a highly satisfying conclusion. Alongside that is the fine Sonny Clark melody, My Conception, which is meditatively and tenderly performed by the trio.The Lamp Is Low, an adaptation of a melody by Ravel, has smooth interplay between Breakstone and Atkinson while 2nd Ave:Blues for Imahori is a tour de force for Breakstone who wrote the piece. It provides him with the opportunity to cut loose and , as he says, it is ' All guitar all the way'.

The rootedness of this group in the jazz community and tradition is reflected in the choice of Thingin' (a Lee Konitz take on All The Things You Are), Cannonball Adderley's Home, and Dexter Gordon's Evergreenish, in addition to those pieces already discussed. There are rich moments in the treatment of all three. This, then, is a stimulating disc throughout. In his liner notes Joshua Breakstone reveals a further sense in which 2nd Avenue was an appropriate title for the album, pointing out that the cello-quartet has become a 'second avenue' of expression for him personally. I'm glad he has given us the chance to share it.

James Poore

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