|Recorded Live at The Kitano Hotel New York, April 12 and 13, 2006.
Conventional wisdom still contends that jazz is music best experienced live. For the enterprising fan, there are more concert recordings available today that at any previous point in the music’s history, whether commercially circulated or available for easy download on file-sharing sites like Dime a Dozen. What’s missing is access to the sort of extended engagements ensconced in multi-volume sets like Art Pepper’s Complete Village Vanguard Sessions or Shelly Manne’s Live at the Blackhawk. These classic recordings were designed specifically to accord consumers the chance to hear stellar working bands over several-night stands, a luxury often not available on the legion of one-off dates that litter both the net and record shop racks. Of course, there are very legitimate reasons behind the paucity of such projects. They can be cost-prohibitive, and more importantly the probability of a band having an off night during an extended venue tenure is very real.
Steeplechase producer Nils Winther was highly cognizant of these considerations when he set about organizing his label’s first on-location New York club recording in early 2005. He made some relatively safe choices in tapping the Rich Perry Quartet, a working band of more than a dozen years, and The Kitano, a relatively new Manhattan hotel and supper club already renowned for its warm and embracing acoustics. Mark Gardner’s notes describe Winther’s strong satisfaction with the recorded results, as well as his decision to release all four of the band’s sets unexpurgated on three cds. If this first volume is indicative of the others, his contentment is well founded.
Perry is a consummate understated artisan on his tenor, a player apposite as a living retort to that Swiss cheese dictum that jazz is a dead language. He’s a person who plays his horn for a living, not in the search of fame or fortune, but simply because doing something else to win his bread just wouldn’t make sense. Here, he jockeys between Rollins swagger on “Just Friends” and Wayne Shorter coyness on “I Thought About You” that also carries slight slivers of Getz, playing the latter piece sans piano for the first handful of minutes. It’s an all-standards set, the youngest among them aged at over half a century, played to a polite and intimate crowd. The rhythm section of Harold Danko, Jay Anderson and Jeff Hirshfield, matches the fluctuating moods of their front man without missing a beat and Perry is more than willing to share in the solo spoils. The closing “I’ll Remember April” illustrates Perry’s intent not to paint-by-numbers, but invest the selections with new hues and pigments as he abstains from the familiar theme and substitutes newly devised line on the changes. This is thoughtful and laidback jazz, commodious to both the jet set and the plebeian at-home listener who’s just put her slippered feet up and poured a tumbler of cognac.
~ Derek Taylor