Abby & Norm Group

Volume I: The Book of Norm

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Abby is bassist and singer Abigail Aronson; Norm is her husband Norman Zocher. Aided by pianist Bevan Manson and drummer Brooke Sofferman, Abby & Norm make some of the warmest, most approachable, and yet still interesting and complex small-ensemble jazz you'll ever hear. This despite the fact that both Abby and Norm are genuine jazz academics, a position that doesn't always bode well for approachability and warmth. Their debut album consists entirely of beautifully realized Zocher originals (with the exception of John Coltrane's notoriously difficult "Giant Steps," an exercise in whole-tone scales that the group executes with impressive facility). His "Hick Licks" sounds like a Bill Frisell tribute, with its gently cathartic melody and countryish inflections; "Devolution" is a jazz waltz based on a wonderfully sweet tune; even the threadbare raw material of "Old Blues" comes out sounding new (and the composition is more blues-flavored than blues-based anyway). Overall, this is one of the most rewarding jazz albums of the year. Highly recommended.

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