PJ Rasmussen New CD "Another Adventure"
PJ Rasmussen's musical aspirations are sharply focused and straightforward. He wants to take the listener on an adventurous journey that makes the heart race, the blood pump and the feet move. His latest CD, Another Adventure on Third Freedom Music, hits that target dead-center. Following up on his highly acclaimed debut album Adventures in Flight, the outstanding composer/guitarist has created a remarkable CD that demonstrates a deep commitment to the jazz tradition. And that includes a sometimes neglected element, the need to move the music forward in a manner that is both bold and urgent – which Rasmussen often does with in-your-face audacity.
For Another Adventure PJ has again assembled a stellar cast. Returning from the debut CD are tenorman Nate Giroux and bassist Adrian Moring. Pianist Jim Ridl and drummer Jon Di Fiore anchor the rhythm, while trombonist Steve Davis and trumpeter Ben Hankle join Nate in the horn section. Scott Robinson's tenor and soprano are also featured on two tracks alongside Lauren Sevian on baritone sax.
Drawing inspiration from the classic Blue Note tradition, PJ has created a unified ensemble approach, rooted in richly textured and cohesively structured compositions from which solos emerge fully integrated into the context of each piece. The result: enthralling stories that take the listeners on a journey similar to that of the cinematic experience.
Many of the stylistic forms that characterized the Blue Note sound are included here. Funky and straight-ahead hard bop, soul jazz, structured avant-garde, and alluring ballads are all part of the mix - deftly blended into PJ's overall vision of the conceptual narrative. Each composition is fully conceived and never just a melodic structure that sandwiches solos. Riffing and ensemble participation are consistently at play creating a kaleidoscopic effect of continuous motion. But lyricism and rhythm are never sacrificed for the sake of innovation or adventurousness. Moods and rhythms switch seamlessly inside the compositional structures at play within each piece, consistently holding the listeners' rapt attention as the overall tale unfolds.
To properly deliver this kind of musical message, superb musicianship is essential. The subtle dynamics, sensitivity and rhythmic diversity of Di Fiore, the highly creative and deeply wooded bass heartbeat of Moring, and Ridl's brilliantly empathetic piano stylings provide the fertile foundation for all of PJ's marvelous compositions. The horn playing is exemplary, whether carrying melodic lines, providing textural support or soloing. Rasmussen, an exceptional guitarist whose skills were developed in the blues and rock tradition along with jazz, is a commanding and highly inventive soloist. But this is not a guitar solo dominated album by any means. While he offers a number of scintillating solos, it's the overall musical vision and composing that delineates his leadership; evidence of a maturity far beyond his 23 years.
The album opens in spirited fashion with the aptly titled Full Speed Ahead, launched upon a sinuous baritone sax line. An R&B tinged driver with hotly syncopated horn lines, the piece encompasses a variety of elements – hollerin' horn lines, sparkling bari and tenor solos by Sevian and Robinson, spacey free-improv, electrifying chords – all tied together into a vividly told story.
Sevian and Robinson (this time on soprano) are back on the extended title cut. A lovely soprano theme over piano and arco bass smoothly shifts into a deep groove built on a delicious ostinato baritone and tension-filled horn lines, setting the tone for lively trumpet, tenor and guitar solos. Another Adventure moves to an entirely different destination from where it began, closing with soprano fully transformed by the journey.
A more traditional hard bop feel marks two pieces. Love Birds is an angular item with a cool jazz vibe, built on solid wood walking bass. Giroux, Hankle and Davis solo in a straight ahead groove and PJ calls up the spirit of Grant Green. A Study in Scarlet has a jaunty, bouncy theme with a Stolen Moments feel that would have been ideal for Blakey's early '60s Jazz Messengers. Lyrically mellow trombone, trumpet and bass solos sustain the mood, and PJ soars over the horns on the way out.
A more atmospheric approach is taken with Under a Wave, which is somewhat reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's Speak Like a Child album. The piano states the theme within the warm embrace of the horns. Buoyantly lyrical tenor and trombone solos, emphatic guitar and a dynamically structured piano solo are highlights.
Spanish modes are in play on The Seven Seas. Flamenco-esque guitar, dulcet trumpet and staccato piano set the tone for a smoldering piece that builds in Bolero-like intensity, with each "release" adding to the fire. The slow burn approach is also in play on Out of Phase, a daring angular piece with a punchy Latin-ish horn line. An incisive piano solo sets the place for a fiery Rasmussen exploration. A tensely exciting collective horn improvisation over darkly luminescent guitar concludes the story.
Two evocative compositions round out Another Adventure. A soul ballad paints the lovely portrait of Ruthie. PJ shows his roots in the Eric Clapton/Stevie Ray Vaughan tradition, gently supported by the lush horns, exuding the kind of soulfulness one would expect from Memphis or Muscle Shoals. For David, concludes the adventure. A touching ballad stated by imploring piano and arco bass, joined in the final chorus by PJ's highly evocative and deeply moving take on the beautiful theme. A profound ending to a radiant album.
With two powerfully conceived and flawlessly executed albums, PJ Rasmussen has established himself as a force that promises amazing things to come.
Upcoming Live Appearances
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25TH, 2014
42 Howard St, Albany, NY
9 PM-12 AM
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5TH, 2014
MAGGIE MURRAY'S PUB
Gravity's Open Jazz Session- 7-10 PM
119 N Washington Ave
Dunellen, New Jersey 08812
Price: $5 Cover
FRIDAY, MARCH 14TH, 2014
PJ Rasmussen Septet - 7-8 PM
18 Whitwell Place
Brooklyn New York 11215
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2ND, 2014
MAGGIE MURRAY'S PUB
PJ Rasmussen Trio - 7-10 PM; 8-10 Open Session
119 N Washington Ave
Dunellen New Jersey 08812
Price: $5 Cover
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