Pianist Linda Presgrave has been a well respected presence in the New York jazz arena for 16 years now, so much so that she attracted the inimitable Harvie S to her ensemble and, man, does he ever insert a number of great solos throughout the session! Then there's Allison Miller who understands exactly where the volume adjustments for her voices on the traps should go: sometimes brushy and mellow, other moments zippy and conversational, and every so often bashing hell out of 'em so the listener knows where the emphases lie. Presgrave herself is constantly arriving from bucolic fields in solidly baroque jazzifications, many times even magisterial, oft mindful of olden Richie Beirach (his early ECM content), Art Lande, and Dave Brubeck. No matter where the rest of the combo may wander, she always has firm control but in the pleasantest of ways.
The horns are essential to Along the Path. Without 'em, the gig would have lost a distinctive top end. Stan Chovnick (Presgrave's husband) is the mainstay and stalwart on soprano sax, Todd Herbert pitching in on tenor, Vincent Herring on alto (and particularly azure on Blues for a Rainy Night). On only one cut, Place Picasso, do all three join together, interlocking for the melodic refrain before taking wing in succession for the blowingest section of the CD…including Miller's upstart segues between passages in the fiery interchanges. As matters progress, Presgrave's comping is always bright and illustrative, her solos a logical progression from them, the combination of the two the environment the group walks through.
Save for one cut, the entirety of Path is instrumental, 90% written by Presgrave, but I wasn't too enthralled with MJ Territo's vocals on Bird of Ceret. She flattened things out too much, took the sky out of the song, compressed the dynamics. Following it, however, is the CD's closer, Universal Freedom, written by Chovnick and a track demanding the most from Presgrave, to which she responds marvelously, with ardor and vivacity. It's also the number on which Chovnick most fully spreads his wings, on his own and while trading off with Herbert before ushering the drum kit in, in a dramatic solo (there's very good reason Miller was chosen for three of Linda's past six releases). Though Path may titularly address two geocultural environments, I listened to the entirety as one long piece of multiple movements, more in the way of a Paul Winter set of pastiches rather than, say, Brubeck's more eclectic colorations. I suspect you'll do the same.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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