Mark Knopfler “Privateering” – Live in Budapest, 22/06/2013

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Let me get state this right off the bat: I’ve made no secret in the past that this is a highly subjective blog. I am in no way an authority on music; I’m just passionate about this art form when it’s done right.

“The Music and Myth” is not merely a review blog; it’s more of a place where I try to promote the music I love and where I write about my experience with a certain piece of music, musician or performance.  You’re not going to get hateful reviews of how much a certain Avril Lavigne record sucked because I just don’t take the time to write about poor quality music

The records and artists I do write about are some that I already love and have a great opinion of much to the dismay of people who would like to read cynical and mock-intellectual reviews that try to put down certain artists and records. That’s just not me. When it comes to music, if I can’t say something good about it then I’d rather not write about it at all (though I’m sure a blog full of hate and poison would get ten times more views).

Anyway, the reason I’m starting my article with this little disclaimer is the fact that this weekend I got to see Mark Knopfler live in Budapest at the Laszlo Papp arena as part of his Privateering tour. If you know me at all you will know that I’ve been a huge fan of Mark’s for fifteen years and that getting to see him in concert was always on my “bucket list” so I’m not the right guy to make a subjective comment about the quality and structure of the concert. Hell, he could have spent two hours playing Bulgarian folk songs and I would still have gone home happy such is my love and admiration for this man. Still, I’ll try to keep this review as objective and professional as I possibly can.

When it comes to Mark I’m a fan of everything he did, from his Dire Straits era (both the “Sultans of Swing” and the “Brothers in Arms” incarnation of DS) to his solo work. I’m definitely not one of the people who expect to see a new Dire Straits record out any time soon only to be left disappointed and in the past I’ve likened those people to the unfortunate souls who think disco is coming back or that Elvis is still alive. In fact, I’m very fond of Mark’s solo work and, on my review of Privateering, I wrote that the record “again goes to prove that while Mark’s biggest hits came in his Dire Straits-past his best music and most interesting stories belong to the present.” It is with this mindset that I’ve attended the concert and it’s because of this mindset that I’ve enjoyed it so much. In fact, for a tour designed to promote the record the concert had a little bit of everything.

I was a bit surprised by the fact that there was no opening act and when, all of a sudden, Mark and the gang appeared on stage I was completely caught off guard. The aforementioned “gang” consisted of Richard Bennett (guitar), Guy Fletcher (keyboards), Jim Cox (piano, organ, accordion), Michael McGoldrick (whistles, uilleann pipes), John McCusker (violin, cittern), Glenn Worf (bass), and Ian Thomas (drums) – who made an excellent impresson on me.

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They went right to work starting the set with “What It Is”, Mark’s undisputable anthem of the post-Dire-Straits-era and a perfect song to get the crowd in the mood. They continued with “Corned Beef City”, one of only three songs they played from the new record (the others were “Privateering” and “I Used to Could”). I was surprised that they only played three of the generous twenty tracks from Privateering but I have to say I was also happy about that in a way. Since it’s my first time seeing Mark live I was glad that the selection of songs he played was more varied. Now, regarding “Corned Beef City” and “I Used to Could” I went on record saying that I’m not necessarily a big fan of his blues-influenced tracks (which abound on the new album) but I have to admit that they make for some great live performances. As far as “Privateering” is concerned, I think it’s one of the best songs of his solo career and it sounds just as good live as it does on CD.

I was happy that we got to hear “Song for Sonny Liston” which I love and especially “I Dug up a Diamond”, a song that has a very special meaning to my wife and me for reasons that have everything to do with our wedding and the wedding DVD. Since he doesn’t always play these two songs on the Privateering tour I think we were most fortunate to get to enjoy them live (and in case you were wondering, they were awesome!)

The combination of “Father and Son” and “Hill Farmer’s Blues” was very emotional and a feel-good moment for band interaction as was “Postcards from Paraguay” while “Speedway at Nazareth” was absolutely intense. I’ve always stated that Mark’s greatest value as a guitarist is in the fact that he never gave into the temptation of putting the instrument before the song, a common fault of many of the world’s greatest guitarists. One of the most celebrated and innovative guitar-players in the world Mark has always been wise enough to never feature his instrument beyond what a certain song calls for, making him a storyteller first and a guitarist second, a most fortunate quality in a songwriter. “Speedway” is a song in which you get to witness Mark in full guitar-god mode while never taking away from the story of the song which is a rare and precious occurrence in music.

The Dire Straits nostalgia moments were provided by “Romeo and Juliet” and “Telegraph Road”, the latter being the set’s closing track, an excellent choice. If I’ve managed to maintain a degree of objectivity and professionalism so far it all flies out the window now that I write about “Telegraph Road”. The song is not only one of my favorite MK/DS tunes but one of my absolute favorite songs of all time and I’ve been in love with this track for fifteen years with a love that never once waned. To experience it live was as though I got to relive the last fifteen years of my life in ten minutes, with all its incredible ups and abysmal downs, an emotional roller-coaster ride that I cannot compare with any other musical experience I’ve lived so far and one that I think represents the pinnacle of what music can achieve.

After leaving the stage and leaving behind a roaring crowd the band quickly returned for an encore consisting of “Our Shangri-La” and “So Far Away”. I’ve heard someone complain that it wasn’t “Sultans of Swing” or “Brothers in Arms” but, as a person who tries to understand the structure and mindset behind performing music, I can understand the decision. While I would have also liked to have heard those classics I am not at all disappointed with the encore that featured two powerful and very sentimental tracks.

In its entirety, the concert was a display of perfect professionalism from one of the music industry’s few veritable gentlemen. Musically, it was irreproachable and my only disappointment was the structure of the stage, namely the lack of a screen. We had great seats but, even so, it would have been nice to have a screen showing close-ups of the band performing. I’m not sure who is responsible for this aspect of the performance, whether it was the guys at the Laszlo Papp Arena or Mark’s own staff but that’s one thing that I would have liked to have seen. Still, only a minor gripe in what was otherwise an incredibly positive experience.

There is something to be said about experiencing excellent musicians live and when it is someone whose work you’ve been listening to and who you’ve been looking up to for a decade and a half the experience is incomparable. As a citizen of a country that has only recently gained a more dynamic mindset when it comes to seeing their favorite performers live I’m a bit sad that I haven’t attended more such concerts in my life and I’ve made it a point to see Mark perform any chance I get. It is most certainly worth it!


Hey everyone, if you like my articles on The Music and Myth, perhaps you will also enjoy my novel Mindguard. You can find it exclusively on Amazon.

Mindguard Cover

Paris – A Musical Journey

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The setting is Paris and the main characters are musicians Rebecca Cavanaugh, Jason Domnarski, Florence and The Machine, Spector, Tom Waits, Presteej and the whole gang at Park Slope Rock School. The following will be a short story about music and myth:

Chapter 1: Tom Waits

Around this time three years ago I was working on something that changed my perspective of music, of the creative process behind it and the people who compose it. That particular “something” was my thesis for the American Studies Masters Program; a thesis entitled Images of Americana in the music of Tom Waits.

I had always been fascinated with this character and his unique approach to writing music and performing on stage so I decided to dedicate a year of study to the man’s work. I knew that I was going to learn a lot, not only about music but also art in general and life in particular. Old-man Waits proved a most capable mentor. I read dozens of interviews, three biographies; I’ve listened to all of his records and learned his lyrics by heart. I was so immersed in Tom Waits facts that I won a “Mexican stand-off” of Tom Waits trivia with my Professor, literary critic Mircea Mihăieș, who as I understand is pretty knowledgeable of music and who, to his credit, did not fail me for embarrassing him as a lesser (and more petty) professor might have.

Anyway, for an entire year the study of Tom Waits’ immense body of work was my life. The most important thing I’ve learned from the man is that there are many ways of creating music and even more ways of experiencing it. You only have to listen to Tom talking about how much he loved hearing music from a neighboring motel-room, filtered through the walls and hybridized with the plethora of background noises that thus gave birth to a completely new song. I thought this mindset was so fascinating that it changed not only the way I listen to music but the way I approach writing, art and life in general. That being said there is one experience in my life that I think best highlights the many types of musicians out there and the many facets of music.

The whole experience started in the cubicle I’ve mentioned in my previous article.  I was surfing the web trying to find concert tickets to Florence and The Machine’s Ceremonials tour. My one-year wedding anniversary was fast approaching and I was planning on surprising my wonderful wife, Ioana, with tickets to her absolute favorite band in the world. “I can’t think of anything I would love more than seeing Florence in concert” she had said to me once so what better anniversary present to get her, right? I settled on Paris, thinking that this way we could also get to visit our friends, Jazz musicians Jason Domnarski and Rebecca Cavanaugh. Jason and Rebecca were nice enough to invite us to stay with them for the entire four days of our trip which gave me an idea.

Chapter 2: Jason, Rebecca, The Boulevardier and Park Slope Rock School   

We ended up leaving for Paris on November 24th, incidentally our 8 year anniversary as a couple. It seemed like a great date to be flying to Paris. We arrived at Jason and Rebecca’s place sometime in the evening and were greeted with love, friendship, food and wine for what turned into our first and thus far only Thanksgiving dinner. It was a lovely and memorable evening and it gave us the chance to talk about how we were going to put into practice my aforementioned idea.

At the time I was writing for a magazine called The Boulevardier, aimed at the “modern gentleman”. Way before we ever thought of taking a trip to Paris I had already imagined one day writing a feature article about Jason and his work as a musician and a music teacher at his Park Slope Rock School. I had talked to Jason about it and he liked my idea so I was planning on using my time in Paris to chat with him, take the photos and work on the article a little bit (on Jason’s Mac which, as a PC user, I found entirely confusing). Since Jason is a musician and The Boulevardier prided itself on being a very interactive magazine I got the idea to film a music video. The ever-helpful Jason immediately agreed and, the next morning we were in their living-room, him ready at his piano, me ready to shoot him with my SLR camera and my wife ready to shoot me shooting him (because we’re weird like that). The décor could not have been more proper as Rebecca and Jason’s apartment is one of the most charming and tastefully decorated homes I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in. Sitting calmly at his piano Jason was the embodiment of a thinking artist. I gave the sign, the proverbial camera started rolling and what followed was the most beautiful, intense and original musical experience I have ever lived as Jason enchanted us with “Streamline” our favorite track from his album Here and There. It’s not every morning that you get you wake up in a lovely Parisian apartment, enjoy your coffee and then have a brilliant pianist play for you. So as Jason was playing, for the entire length of the song we felt outside of space and time. My wife was moved to tears and I was left thinking back to Tom Waits’ statement about experiencing music and how the surroundings and the moment of time itself become part of the song.

(You can have a look at the video we shot right here and you can read the feature article I wrote for The Boulevardier here)

Chapter 3: Kids writing music and Presteej at Sacre Coeur

We spent the next few days visiting Paris, with Jason and Rebecca as our guides and we were very glad to get to spend some time together with our friends. If you read my feature story you are familiar with the lovely dinner at Au Passage and how we ended up talking about Jason’s Rock School, the great work his kids are doing and some of the awesome songs they are writing themselves. When we got back home my wife and I found out just how great those songs really are. They were all wonderful especially given that they were written by children but there was one that especially stuck with me. It’s called “This is a Message” by the band Electric Lemons and it’s a song that should be on the radio and should be famous. If you gave it a listen you can’t tell me that you didn’t immediately press “repeat”. It’s more than a kids’ song, it is good quality music and brilliant songwriting and my immediate thought was: “This song is written by children. Adults have no excuse to bombard us with some of the shit music we are subjected to on the radio every day!”

The next day we decided to visit the famous Montmartre and stop at the Sacre Coeur Cathedral. We walked in and spent about 20 minutes taking pictures and just generally being in awe of the construction. When we got out our attention was immediately caught by this. That, my friends, is the band Presteej and that was the exact song they were singing that day. We immediately fell in love with their music and bought one of their records. I could have stood there, in front of the Sacre Coeur and could have listened to them all day and it was very difficult to move away from this great sound when our hectic schedule demanded that we continue our journey. With the concert that was the purpose of our trip still two days away we had already experienced so much wonderful music in so many shapes and forms.

Chapter 4: Spector, Florence, The Machine       

On the day of the concert we arrived in front of the Zenith about two hours earlier, just to make sure. We could already hear the band rehearsing with the thick walls of the venue no match for the powerful voice of Florence Welch. Fans were humming their favorite song and I was silently cursing that I had forgotten my notebook on which I had intended on writing snippets of thoughts and observations. When we finally got in and were preparing for the concert we had all but forgotten that there was going to be an opening act as well. They ended up being English rock-band Spector whom neither I nor my wife were familiar with. Experiencing a live concert of a band you love is something special but something can also be said about hearing music for the first time at a concert. Whereas we knew Florence’s songs by heart and went into the show with her imaginary voice in our heads singing along, in the case of Spector our minds were blank slates and we were completely immersed in every sound that was coming off the stage, making for a different but perhaps equally intense adventure. Then, of course, came Florence and rocked the house.

From start to finish our short trip to Paris was an adventure of song. From Florence on stage with glitter and bright lights to Spector with less of both but more self-deprecating charm (If you folks will be kind enough to clap…we will be kind enough to leave the stage), to Jason playing piano in his living-room, the Electric Lemons rockin’ it from Jason’s Mac and Presteej performing in front of the Sacre Coeur, Ioana and I got to enjoy such varied and wonderful music in so many forms. We have been incredibly fortunate to take what I like to call a complete musical journey and, as we now prepare to see the legendary Mark Knopfler live in Budapest (June 22nd) I can only hope that we will embark on a similar adventure.

Music and Myth – a Happy Birthday article!

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Photo by Andrei Cherascu

I like to believe that all noble and noteworthy efforts start with an epiphany. Mine was “screw it!” It came about upon realization that I was at that time finding myself in a cubicle, answering phone-calls fixing computers and generally waiting for the clock to strike 17:00. I had no idea how I had gotten there and was sort of passively thinking about that as I did my mind-numbing work.

Now, a man’s deep analysis of his life, its purpose and direction does not necessarily have to exceed the 24 hour mark, sometimes all of those thoughts can manifest themselves within a fraction of a second, which in my case lead to the aforementioned “screw it!”

Ok, I might be exaggerating a little bit because I had been thinking a lot up to that point about what exactly I was doing in a cubicle (I wasn’t actually in a cubicle, it’s more of a metaphor) in the first place and why I had gotten it in my head that there was no way in hell I could make a living doing what I actually love. Who is to say I can’t become a writer, write…I mean, right? Usually that thought process was interrupted by having to tend to daily business or just having to leave for work again.  Alright, I just made a short story long; the basic idea is I decided I want to start writing again, which I hadn’t done in about six years (with the exception of writing a script to this really great graphic novel that never ended up happening).

I didn’t just straight up decide to quit my job then and there via middle finger to the boss, though I agree that would have been considerably more entertaining. Nope, I started planning for the future, for a day when I could make a living by being a stay-home writer. I was planning on writing a novel, you see, but there was the little problem that I had never written one before and I was sure I will be experiencing severe keyboard-rust after such a long time. I needed to train, just generally write so that I can get back in “shape”. You see where this is going, right?

I was planning on writing but I just didn’t know what to write about. I could have attempted to put together some short stories but there was always the risk that they would end up sucking and would completely discourage me from ever attempting to put the proverbial pen to paper again. So I needed to write about something that would be fail-proof and the only topic I felt I was passionate enough about and which could at the same time be intrinsically interesting (I doubt many people would enjoyed my weekly articles on pro-wrestling) was music. It made sense: I absolutely love music, I know enough about it and I could talk (or in this case write) about it for hours. I decided to create “The Music and Myth” as a place where I can write about the music I love and also help promote it in any way I can. My readers have surely noticed that this is not so much a place where I review any record I come across as it is a place where I write about and try to spread the word about what I consider to be the absolutely best music I encounter with my life.  On the first ever entry, I wrote:

I thought I might write about records and bands that I love, hoping to spark an interest in their music or at least help promote their “myth”.  […]The “genres” will vary, the styles will vary and so will the instruments and the occasional voices but the one constant will be the esthetic value of the music brought forth by these gifted artists, each outstanding in his or her own way.

In the one year (tomorrow!) since I started “The Music and Myth” I have written about artists as diverse as Florence + The Machine, Alexi Murdoch, Jason Domnarski, Paul Kogut, The Banat Philharmonic Orchestra, Marc Ribot, Nils Peter Molvaer, Gavin Bryars, Anouar Brahem, David Darling, Kim Kashkashian, Robert Levin, Michael Galasso, Jan Garbarek, Hiromi Uehara, Patricia Barber and, of course the incomparable Tom Waits (more on him a bit later). The mere existence of “The Music and Myth” has sparked inside me an even greater interest in music than I’ve had before and has led me to discovering new artists and works that are absolutely breathtaking.

On top of that it has offered me a place where I can just write freely, exercise my craft and do it on a topic I love so much. Now, one year later, I have escaped that mental cubicle as well as the physical job attached to it and am now a full-time writer. In the meantime, I’ve published articles in various magazines; have written music reviews for Blinded By Sound and managed to reach my goal of publishing a humor piece in Cracked. I’ve also written a crime noir novel I am now trying to sell and I am currently working on my second novel which, like I have always dreamed of, will be sci-fi. Throughout this eventful year “The Music and Myth” has not only remained the one constant in my writing, my interest in it and my love for it are increasing every day. That being said, I want to say in advance Happy Birthday to my first baby!

As a special gift to my readers I’ve prepared an article about the many facets of music and the many ways in which we can experience this wonderful art-form. The article will be published tomorrow, on the blog’s birthday, and I do hope you will take the time to read it.

The setting is Paris and the main characters are musicians Rebecca Cavanaugh, Jason Domnarski, Florence and The Machine, Spector, Tom Waits, Presteej and the whole gang at Park Slope Rock School. The following will be a short story about music and myth!

Patricia Barber’s Smash – extraordinary intelligence and articulacy

With the one year anniversary of The Music and Myth fast approaching I was planning on quickly getting one more review/recommendation in before I work on my “anniversary article”. Still, there is no way in hell I am going to rush through a review of Smash, one of the best records you are bound to encounter this year.

(Note: initially I had written “one of the best Jazz records you are bound to encounter” and then I changed my mind)

American singer, songwriter and pianist Patricia Barber is probably one of the most well-liked and most respected Jazz musicians in the world right now and it’s not hard to figure out why. Thirty seconds in, you can already see that it will be very hard to find any fault in this record especially given that it just might be her best yet.

Barber’s voice is flawless, her piano-playing is wonderful and the general instrumental arrangement of the record is brilliant; still neither of these things is the defining trait of Patricia Barber’s work. The qualities that stand out the most are her extraordinary intelligence and her articulacy, evident in the songwriting. Trust me, brilliant lyrics are not always a given, even in Jazz.

The record starts off with “Code Cool”, a very ambitious opening track for various reasons. The bass and drums provide a catchy rhythm and, a few seconds later, Patricia’s piano instantly hooks the listener. And then, of courses, come the lyrics:

Split seconds can carry quite a surprise/diffuse white matter will close my eyes/thus brutalized

I will sleep as if I were dreaming

Emergency downbeat Code Cool begins rapid sequence intubation/IV squeeze and circulation

thus stabilized

I inspire as if I were preaching

Only a minute and a half into the song (and implicitly also the record) Barber makes the very ballsy move of inserting a very slow interlude of sound effects, completely disrupting the pace and leaving the listener “up in the air”. I cannot stress enough how incredibly difficult this is to pull off successfully and when, one minute and twenty seconds later, her piano returns, gentle at first and then intense, you know you are listening to something special. I’ve talked before about the importance of a great opening song and it does not get any better than “Code Cool”. You learn all you need to know about this record from this single track: it is a record of well-calculated instrumentation, sensual vocals and above all brilliant poetry (i square dance slow make love with my lips/ read eyes like books read books like science / i remember and fix citation to case/ case to form/ discombobulation and i can cook up a storm/ i’m Michelangelo’s David tested and worn).

When I say well-calculated instrumentation what I mean is that this record has the singular quality of always being one step ahead of the listener. It is man’s nature, when listening to music, to anticipate the next sound, the direction in which the song is moving and Smash completely disrupts that tendency by changing tempo, instruments or by just flat-out stopping at certain points and pausing for a few seconds before resuming its journey.  You can never really guess where it’s going and that is near-impossible to pull off without angering or frustrating the listener. And yet, Patricia Barber does it to perfection.

“Code Cool” is followed by the haunting and, at times, melancholy “The Wind Song” and the restrained and introspective “Romanesque” before moving forward to the title track. “Smash” is outstanding especially for its switch from gentle and refrained (so this is the sound of a heart breaking) to a well-timed electric-guitar explosion with which the song ends. Reviewer Andrea Canter of The Jazz Police likened this transition to the duality of emotional pain versus physical pain and I think that’s a brilliant observation.

The more upbeat (at least as far as tempo is concerned) “Redshift” is next and, at least in a matter of lyrics, I think it’s the crown jewel of this record, with its clever use of scientific imagery:

Einstein would concur / trajectories are curved / things aren’t what they were or where we left them /

Heisenberg was right / fixing speed and site / for all who love are blind is unwise and uncertain

Starting with “Spring Song” the record moves on to a more conventional “late-night” Jazz feel with more stress on heartfelt ballads, like the stunningly beautiful “Scream” (my personal favorite) and the thoroughly poetic “The Swim”, abounding with wit though never light on content.

An important exception from this more mellow second part is the lively “Devil’s Food”, with bits of disco-funk making use of humor to touch on the subject of gay love as a direct comment on the right-wing reactions against gay marriage. Patricia sings:

look at you, look at me/ baby I can see/ we’re a lot  alike/ does that seem right to you

silk on silk/ sweet on sweet/ meat on meat

boy, you’re smooth/ and you’re just my type/ does that seem right to you

and she befittingly states

boy meets boy / girl meets girl / given any chance / to fall in love / they do

There is also an entirely instrumental track called “Bashful” which allows fellow musicians Larry Kohut (bass), and Jon Deitemyer (drums) a pleasant moment in the spotlight (guitarist John Kregor gets his on “Smash” and “Devil’s Food”) while also highlighting Patricia’s talent on the piano but it doesn’t really stand out from any other point of view. The record closes with the tender and heartbreaking “Missing” an exclamation mark on the more “sentimental” second part proving that, although the album might have lost a bit of steam as it progressed it steadily gained more depth and perhaps more heart.

Overall, Smash is the Meryl Streep of records: intelligent, elegant, with a disarmingly honest intensity but also well-timed humor. I insistently recommend it!

Paul Kogut’s Turn of Phrase – Flawless Construction and Perfect Symmetry

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I’ve recently realized that it’s been an insanely long time since I focused on a guitar-driven record, especially given that the guitar is my favorite instrument (very original, I know, but what can you do when you’ve been raised on Hendrix, Dire Straits, Led Zep, Gary Moore and SRV). It was a stroke of luck that I should come across Paul Kogut’s Turn of Phrase since I can’t think of a better album to write about after a long guitar dry-spell.

Turn of Phrase is Kogut’s third release on the Blujazz label and this time he is backed by incredibly accomplished bassist George Mraz and Drummer Magazine’s MVP of 2009, Lewis Nash. If you’re an ECM guy like me you might have heard Mraz on John Abercrombie’s Arcade, M or Abercrombie Quartet (late 70s to 1980) or perhaps Richard Beirach’s Elm (1979). If not, maybe you know him from his many collaborations with the likes of Oscar Peterson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Stan Getz, Charles Mingus and Dizzy freakin’ Gillespie among (many many) others.

As far as Lewis Nash is concerned, if you’ve been listening to Jazz at all in your life there’s a good chance you might have stumbled across one of the over 400 recordings the man has appeared on throughout his career (and if you’re not a Jazz fan you’ve probably heard him on your Bette Midler or George Michael records). Given the pedigrees of the band it comes as no surprise that Turn of Phrase is a record for purists.

Kogut, Mraz and Nash deliver a work where the main focus is on the individual virtuosity of the veteran musicians and the many nuances of their respective tools of the trade. The three instruments are played to cohesive perfection while at the same time managing to maintain and develop their individual character. In other words they mix well together but also manage to stand out on their own, always a sign of a very solid recording though you would expect nothing less from the very experienced trio.

The record begins abruptly with the track “So That Happened” wasting no time on intros or build, not usually my favorite approach but very effective when handled correctly. Here it serves to exemplify the aforementioned cohesive nature of the album as the band goes straight to work and creates a rhythm and a relationship that is maintained throughout the generous eleven tracks.

The whole album is, in my opinion, a very clean example of what a guitar/bass/drums recording should sound like, with each instrument doing its part. Kogut’s guitar and Mraz’s bass effortlessly and gracefully play off each other transitioning smoothly as they switch the “lead” in this dance of strings while the drums of Lewis Nash provide the “muscle”. This is Jazz 101 and if you’ve never listened to a Jazz recording before, this one is a great example of why we Jazzheads are loyal to this genre. Check out the second track, “About You”, for an absolutely flawless construction and perfect symmetry, from the drums introducing the track, to the bass solidifying it at the middle and Kogut’s intense playing in the closing seconds providing a very pleasant “aftertaste”.

The layout of the album is reminiscent of old vinyls. Its structure suggest a two-part construction, with “Days of Wine and Roses” finishing off the perceived first part and “Sister Cheryl” (with its awesome drum solo at the beginning) ushering in an imagined part two.

While Mraz and Nash offer excellent support on their respective instruments it is, understandably, Kogut’s guitar that sets the mood of the songs, a mood that ranges from bluesy playfulness (“Know It? I Wrote It”, “Sister Cheryl”) to contemplative charm (“Body and Soul” – shades of Ray Crawford in “Blue Valentines” and SRV in “Lenny”) to songs that sound like (and probably are) impromptu jam-sessions (“Turn of Phrase”, “Especially When it Rains”).

The cover songs are delivered with great love and respect and Kogut gets his “private moment” with his guitar on the “Wayne Shorter Solo Medley”, a track that could not and should not have been missing on a record such as this.

Overall, like many quality works, Turn of Phrase does not offer instant gratification. If you’re not necessarily a Jazz aficionado and are thus not accustomed to picking up the subtleties of a work such as this you might get a tendency to “tune out” after a while and it would be a damn shame for this record to be reduced to nothing more than “background” music.

Instead, I suggest taking an hour to just focus on it; listen to it with your eyes closed and try to single out the instruments and picture the musicians playing them. This will, at the very least provide a wonderful opportunity for meditation and, at best, offer you a better understanding of this type of music as you bask in the soothing sounds of this piece of instrumental excellence .