Bar code: 84 27328 42082 2
From odd-meter funk to an arrangement for piano trio of Shostakovich's Prelude #4, to solo piano improvisations Ben Waltzer's new release, In Metropolitan Motion, is a jazz cd that finds unity in variety. In Metropolitan Motion is a narrative-in-sound that moves from abstract expressionist sketches of Berlin's Prenzlauerberg and Orianeburg Strasse to the vistas of the Judean Desert, from Manhattan's funk inflected streets to Jamaica's Port Royal, from a West African drum circle to an imagined tentacular metropolis at night. These stark and contrasting colors are bound by the negotiation of improvisation, the joy of swing, and the illumined epiphanies of group interplay.
Waltzer is joined by the West-African percussionist Mohammed Naseehu Ali, and fellow Fresh Sound New Talent recording artists drummer Gerald Cleaver (of Roscoe Mitchell's Note Factory, The Jacky Terrasson Group, and the Joe Morris Quartet), Bill McHenry (Guillermo Klein's Los Gauchos) and bassis Chris Lightcap (Joe Morris, Matt Wilson).
"In Metropolitan Motion" was recorded in the fall of 1999 for Fresh Sound/New Talent Records and is Ben Waltzer's third release on that label. His first CD, For Good the Ben Waltzer Trio with Jordi Rossy and Reid Anderson (FSNT 013), and Jazz is Where You Find It, the Waltzer-McHenry Quartet, Live at the Pipa Club, Barcelona (FSNT 021) which also features Bill McHenry ontenor saxophone.
"An inspired statement from pianist Ben Waltzer, also featuring tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry, bassist Chris Lightcap, and drummer Gerald Cleaver, with appearances by Mohammed Naseehu Ali on djembe and talking drum. This lineup is actually three-quarters of Lightcaps Lay-Up ensemble, so what youre hearing is by no means a thrown-together studio band. Quite a few of the tracks simply feature Waltzer in a standard trio setting. The pianists style is harmonically adventurous in the post-Hancock mold, ranging from post-bop swing to funk to haunting, dissonant balladry. On "La Ville Tentaculaire" and "Arbella" he employs a distinctly Ellingtonian touch.
Waltzer knows how to pace an album. He inserts three solo piano "ruminations" to break up the longer pieces; following the first two, Ali and Cleaver take over with percussion interludes titled "Kira de Anshi" (I) and (II). These brief bits function like palette cleansers during a fine meal. The album ends with the third and final rumination, titled "Dasein Blues," a reference to the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Waltzers predilection for philosophy also comes through in the title of his second track, "Crooked Timber," as in "the crooked timber of humanity," a phrase coined by Immanuel Kant and later used as a book title by Sir Isaiah Berlin. (Philosophy aside, McHenry leaps out with a burning solo on this track.)
As if to balance out the prevailing air of erudition and seriousness (enhanced by a dense ballad arrangement of Shostakovichs "Prelude #4"), Waltzer and crew add a phantom 17th track, consisting simply of a crashing chord, followed by collective laughter. After an intense musical journey, Waltzer chooses to sign off with a candid studio moment, and somehow this seems entirely appropriate".
By David R. Adler (All About Jazz)