NEXT COLLECTIVE, COVER ART


L to R: Ben Williams, Christian Scott, Logan Richardson, Matt Stevens.  Photo by Nick Bewsey
The weather outside was frightful, but the sleet and cold rain didn’t dissuade several hundred of us from standing outside New York’s La Poisson Rouge on February 26 to hear the immensely engaging NEXT Collective, a band that brings together rising talent and modern jazz power players (saxophonists Logan Richardson, Walter Smith III, guitarist Matthew Stevens, pianists Gerald Clayton and Kris Bowers, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jamire Williams) playing their own unrestricted jams of pop and hip hop tunes from their debut release, Cover Art (Concord Jazz). Most of these youngish guys are leaders in their own right and as a band they plug in to a zeitgeist, bringing diverse listeners together through instrumental jazz fused with funk, electronica and alt-rock.

Concord’s Chris Dunn put the group together, but the project quickly became something more. “There was a point in the sessions for this album,” says Dunn, “when I looked around the room and suddenly realized the level of talent packed in there together, the cream of the new crop, so to speak—and how much they are invested in jazz and also soaked in the music going on around them.”  The concept is roughly analogous to Marvel’s The Avenger’s, engineered in reverse -- of the artists in the Collective, each of them have either released solo records already or plan to.

Cover Art takes 10 tunes by Bon Iver, Dido, D’Angelo, Pearl Jam and others and divides the arranging duties among the Collective. Protean trumpeter Christian Scott stuns on two tunes that he arranged (a fiercely lyrical version of Kanye West and Jay Z’s “No Church In The Wild, with Scott playing Frank Ocean’s vocal lines) and Drake’s “Marvin’s Room,” a delicately shaped ballad gilded by Scott’s muted horn. Bassist Ben Williams reshapes N.E.R.D’s affecting “Fly Or Die” with a strong backbeat; beefy guitar licks and a dancing bass line conspire to make his rendition especially tuneful. With saxophonists Logan Richardson on alto and Walter Smith III on tenor, a tight frontline with harmonics to burn and drummer Jamire Williams (his spacey take on Stereolab’s “Refractions In The Plastic Pulse” adds phase-shifting and dappled beats to great effect,) NEXT has a confident, juggernaut approach to delivering music with both gravitas and chill out vibes. The Collective successfully transcends demographics delivering music tight enough for those with Beats headphones as well as traditional minded listeners with an appetite for giddy eclecticism.

The CD release gig concluded after a fleeting hour-plus set and while everyone expected an encore, the DJ signaled the wrap up by spinning “Afro Blue” from Robert Glasper’s Grammy winning R&B project, “Black Radio,” and so we filed out into the rain with the buzz of NEXT Collective still in our heads.  (10 tracks; 56 minutes / the download on iTunes features an expanded album with four bonus tracks.)

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JAZZ IN SPACE: NEXT COLLECTIVE, COVER ART

Monday, April 1, 2013

NEXT COLLECTIVE, COVER ART


L to R: Ben Williams, Christian Scott, Logan Richardson, Matt Stevens.  Photo by Nick Bewsey
The weather outside was frightful, but the sleet and cold rain didn’t dissuade several hundred of us from standing outside New York’s La Poisson Rouge on February 26 to hear the immensely engaging NEXT Collective, a band that brings together rising talent and modern jazz power players (saxophonists Logan Richardson, Walter Smith III, guitarist Matthew Stevens, pianists Gerald Clayton and Kris Bowers, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jamire Williams) playing their own unrestricted jams of pop and hip hop tunes from their debut release, Cover Art (Concord Jazz). Most of these youngish guys are leaders in their own right and as a band they plug in to a zeitgeist, bringing diverse listeners together through instrumental jazz fused with funk, electronica and alt-rock.

Concord’s Chris Dunn put the group together, but the project quickly became something more. “There was a point in the sessions for this album,” says Dunn, “when I looked around the room and suddenly realized the level of talent packed in there together, the cream of the new crop, so to speak—and how much they are invested in jazz and also soaked in the music going on around them.”  The concept is roughly analogous to Marvel’s The Avenger’s, engineered in reverse -- of the artists in the Collective, each of them have either released solo records already or plan to.

Cover Art takes 10 tunes by Bon Iver, Dido, D’Angelo, Pearl Jam and others and divides the arranging duties among the Collective. Protean trumpeter Christian Scott stuns on two tunes that he arranged (a fiercely lyrical version of Kanye West and Jay Z’s “No Church In The Wild, with Scott playing Frank Ocean’s vocal lines) and Drake’s “Marvin’s Room,” a delicately shaped ballad gilded by Scott’s muted horn. Bassist Ben Williams reshapes N.E.R.D’s affecting “Fly Or Die” with a strong backbeat; beefy guitar licks and a dancing bass line conspire to make his rendition especially tuneful. With saxophonists Logan Richardson on alto and Walter Smith III on tenor, a tight frontline with harmonics to burn and drummer Jamire Williams (his spacey take on Stereolab’s “Refractions In The Plastic Pulse” adds phase-shifting and dappled beats to great effect,) NEXT has a confident, juggernaut approach to delivering music with both gravitas and chill out vibes. The Collective successfully transcends demographics delivering music tight enough for those with Beats headphones as well as traditional minded listeners with an appetite for giddy eclecticism.

The CD release gig concluded after a fleeting hour-plus set and while everyone expected an encore, the DJ signaled the wrap up by spinning “Afro Blue” from Robert Glasper’s Grammy winning R&B project, “Black Radio,” and so we filed out into the rain with the buzz of NEXT Collective still in our heads.  (10 tracks; 56 minutes / the download on iTunes features an expanded album with four bonus tracks.)

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