Jeff Albert

Similar in the Opposite Way

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Slide trombonist Jeff Albert owes no small debt to two of his predecessors in Ray Anderson and Jeb Bishop. With New Orleans roots and modern Chicago sensibilities, Albert convincingly straddles the line between bayou swamp inferences as a foundation for the heady underground improvisational bent of post-AACM Chi-Town. There's a loose tightness to this quartet, evident as the musicians weave in and out of slight written melodies, lay on thick counterpointed interplay, and suggest jazz from the hard bop era without directly quoting it. Alto saxophonist Ray Moore is further up in the stereo mix than Albert, which makes it seem like it is his date instead of the trombonist's, but responsibility and teamwork in melodic and harmonic duties are undoubtedly equally shared. You'd be hard-pressed to find anything clich├ęd or rote on this recording, and surprises tumble out one after another from start to finish. The title track -- as obtuse as the yin/yang inference -- is relaxed and jaunty at the same time, reflecting the Crescent City modern swing and bop folded into streetsmart South Side Windy City grit. The funky strut and deep blues of "Bag Full of Poboys" is fairly straight-ahead for this band; a swinging waltz identifies "Folk Song" in a post-bop John Coltrane mode; and the poignant "Subtle Flower" lives up to its title in its sighing, wishful-thinking nuance. The band enjoys dicing up phrases like a stinging chopped onion, with static notes in call and response on the deliberate "Ninth Ward Trotsky" and the disjointed swagger of the semi-waltz "Chalk & Chocolate" being the best examples. "I Was Just Looking for My Pants" starts off in an acid tripped-out melody similar to "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," then screeches to a dazed halt, stopped dead in its tracks. "Rooskie Cyclist" closes the program in a light funk and harmonic dialect reflective of Chicago icon Ray Anderson, and perhaps the off-minor inclinations of saxophonist David Binney. Albert is a fine player, not surprising given his two decades freelancing with swing and big bands and working with New Orleans rhythm & blues groups, but recently displaying an affinity for the new wave of Chicago creative musicians. This recording holds plenty of interest over time, and marks Albert as a unique figure who is scratching the surface of his huge potential.

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