Mark Soskin Man Behind the Curtain
- Released: November 30, 2009
- Label: Kind Of Blue
JazzTimes - pp.60-61"[The arrangements are] fresh and surprisingly designed, they're free of rote exchanges and dutiful soloing."
- 1.Heather on the Hill
- 2.Chutes and Ladders
- 4.For All We Know
- 5.Man Behind the Curtain
- 6.This Is New
- 7.For Heaven's Sake
- 8.Little One
Personnel: Mark Soskin (piano); Ravi Coltrane (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); Bill Stewart (drums).
Audio Mixers: Michael Marciano; Mike Marciano.
Recording information: Systems Two Recording Studio, NY (05/08/2009).
Photographer: Jimmy Katz.
Arranger: Mark Soskin.
Pianist Mark Soskin's successful career as a top-drawer jazz musician has been defined by his tenure with legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins and his efforts as a leader, which mark him as a fine player and purveyor of the modern mainstream. For this, his tenth album as a leader, Soskin is asserting his talents as a person who enjoys rearranging well-worn standards, adding three originals, and displaying the immense talent that makes his music ultimately enjoyable. With estimable help from drummer Bill Stewart and acoustic upright bassist Jay Anderson, Soskin has substantial support in this endeavor while adding saxophonist Ravi Coltrane. A musician quite different than Rollins, the son of John Coltrane (and a fine player in his own right) maintains his own high-level brand of quality and visibility to the quartet. Soskin himself is quite an intelligent player who always knows the right phrase to place in the moment, especially from his bass-oriented left hand. He loves to set up sonic waves in tandem with Anderson, or play off of Stewart's deft rhythmic pulse. The quartet does a memorable version of "Invitation," and while jazz bands have done this one to death, Soskin uses a waltz tempo, a modal base, and kinetic energy to uplift it. A light and lilting take of "Heather on the Hill" moves to hip and heavy modal power in nine meaningful minutes. A bass feature for Anderson on the fairly slow and tender "For Heaven's Sake" has Coltrane overdubbing tenor and soprano sax; the rubato free-based "For All All We Know" shows a different side of Soskin … la John Coltrane removed from bar lines; and the chord-driven "This Is New" has the pianist accenting the melody while swinging it along easily. Soskin is humble as a composer, and his "Chutes & Ladders" is playful, tuneful modern music with a sonorous tandem line from Coltrane's tenor and Anderson's bass; the title track is a straight waltz, mysterious yet light; and "Little One" is simply a beauty in its economy and concordant, internal innocence. There's no strain of egos or dominant imbalance that might tip the scales, especially in the role Ravi Coltrane plays as a teammate rather than a frontman. It is this democratic aspect of Soskin's music that takes the quartet into a cohesive arena that for many listeners may not be all that immediately distinctive. The good news is that Soskin and his excellent ensemble rely on solid mainstream jazz values in order to get a direct point of view across, and in this case succeed without any further questions. ~ Michael G. Nastos
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