The Monster / Nostalgia 77


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Conceptualist, producer, engineer, and composer Ben Lamdin (aka Nostalgia '77) has had a hell of a year in 2014. Not only did he issue the fine A Journey Too Far, which showcased the bluesy, psychedelic pop side of of his persona (thanks in no small part to the gorgeous vocals of Josa Peit), but he collaborated with engineer Prince Fatty (Mike Pelanconi) on a dubwise remix of his back catalog. Lamdin also produced Jamie Cullum's deservedly celebrated Blue Note debut, Interlude. His final entry for the year is the sophomore studio collaboration with the Monster -- his live jazz band. This set follows in the footsteps of the unit's excellent 2012 offering, The Taxidermist. While there are some personnel changes here, it's worth noting that the Monster is a slimmed down version of the Nostalgia '77 Octet, which ceased performing after original drummer Graham Fox died. All of these players -- bassist/arranger Riaan Vosloo, pianist Kit Downes, reed and wind player James Allsopp, trumpeter Fulvio Sigurta, and drummer Tim Giles -- have long been part of Lamdin's collaborative stable. Measures is a more diverse offering than The Taxidermist. The approach here is to showcase as many different dynamic aspects of creative jazz as possible, within original compositions and covers, from uptempo fingerpoppers to more moody material. Stylistically the music runs the gamut. There are wonderful, Latin-tinged modal workouts such as the title track, as well as the meditative, Brazilian-influenced "Archipelago" -- the latter with glorious flute work from Allsop. Then there's the celebratory groove in "Scallywag," which offers hints of influences from Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders to the Clarke-Boland Sextet. Also, stacked back-to back are a pair of great covers: a fantastic read of Keith Tippett's classic "Thoughts to Geoff" with a wonderful solo from Sigurta and an impressionistic responses from Downes, and a restrained space pop version Sun Ra's exotica-tinged "Islands in the Sun" with its lyric line firmly entrenched throughout. "Rules" is a slow-grooving, spiritual soul-jazz tune that sends the album out on a contemplative vibe. Measures is as lovely as it is solid. Its selection and presentation are airy, with the lighter compositions perfectly balanced in gray shades by more aggressive (yet no less elegant) ones. Throughout, the ensemble and solo playing are excellent, and matched by the tunes. Given the diversity of what these players do together album to album, as evidenced here, this unit has evolved to one of near greatness.

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