A certain cerebral West Coast cool attitude infuses much (if not all) of this thirty-three-minute CD, but what I think does in the Gregg Brennan Aiseiri Quartet is the often jarring use of silence. Certain band members have differing ideas on how it's best implemented, and that's not as frivolous a thing as it might seem.
The opening, "Noir," has some very worthy arrangement ideas (Mike Anklewicz's imaginative sax comping and pedal points under guitarist Avi Granite's statement, for example), but I think that Granite's elliptic, busy attack (the hot space in Jazz and downtown NYC guitar lately appears to be between Bill Frisell
and Elliot Sharp) doesn't jive well with the remainder of the band.
Tim Minthorn's piano, leaning more toward the Richard Beirach-oriented art of letting notes breathe, seems hemmed in by Granite's flurries.
Anklewicz holds his own well (I note a buglike nasal tone on his alto that I recall from Elton Dean in the early 1970s), but the guitar and piano simply do not seem able to coexist here. Many of Granite's runs, especially early in "Mongols?," have a stock Jazz fusion sort of forward motion despite the many tonic surprises inside the envelope and jar a bit. Pianist Minthorn's chill (not cold) plying of those same chords don't mesh. The overall effect is two different takes of the same four tracks elbowing each other out of the way.
In this CD's favor are Brennan's literate and tasty drumwork throughout and Neal Davis's very sparse (just what's needed), minimal bass work.
Maybe it's the current tendency for some groups I've reviewed of late to have guitar as opposed to piano as the linkage instrument in their quartets. Recent reviews in these e-pages include forward-looking traditionalist Perry Conticchio and interstellar overdrive techie Stich Wynston and his Modern Surfaces, both in the September 2005 issue.
I think Marc Edwards (former David S. Ware Quartet drummer) may have partially inspired this trend back in the early nineties when his quartet included a feedback specialist along with the estimable Hilliard Greene on bass. The piano fall out of favor? No, Jazz is an amoeba, not a paramecium. Just a minor move in a different direction.
Bird on Triangle has wit, but the musical influences may be coming from too many diffuse trajectories to really jell.
By Ken Egbert