What I’m Listening to Wednesday – Tom Rainey “Obbligato”

Tom Rainey Obbligato
When it comes down to it, regardless of how ‘eclectic’ we are in terms of listening habits, or if we say we’ll ‘listen to anything’ … it is seldom true. Even more than that – I believe we all have a ‘type’. My ‘pop’ type is 80’s synth-pop, my ‘classical’ type is 19th century romantic, and my jazz type … ok, so maybe that one is tougher!

But one thing is for sure – the modern avant-garde jazz coming out of New York City seems to constantly connect with me! Artists such as Mary Halvorson, Kris Davis, Ingrid Laubrock, and so on produce great cutting edge jazz – and very often play on each other’s recordings … as is the case here!

This week’s JAM is Tom Rainey’s “Obbligato”

Here is the press info:

On Tom Rainey’s second CD on Intakt Records, he surprises listeners with standards from Brubeck, Monk and Ellington. For this recording he chose some of the finest players New York has to offer. ‘The players are pretty scrupulous…melodic variation is the heart of their method – they acknowledge the changes, but are very much playing the tune not just the frame. Think of the collective improvisations as multiple obbligatos…’ – Kevin Whitehead, from the Liner Notes

The interesting thing about this album is the selection of songs – we have ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ from Ellington, ‘In Your Own Sweet Way’ from Brubeck and ‘Reflections’ from Monk, and ‘Great American Songbook’ selections from Jerome Kern and others. There is no doubt that everyone in this ensemble is schooled in the jazz tradition and highly capable of running standards … but it is an unusual set of selections for them.

What I immediately liked was how they treated the songs with respect – and by that I mean that they showed why they are classics in terms of melody, harmony and structure … but they also showed respect by showing how well they can be stretched out.

The musicians here – Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Ingrid Laubrock on saxophone, Kris Davis on piano, Drew Gress on bass and Tom Rainey on drums – are diverse in their approach and focus, yet here they are unified. The group presents a modern take on a classic setting – the traditional hard-bop line-up exemplified by groups such as the Miles Davis quintet and others.

And while this is some of the most constrained work I have heard from these individuals, it is never boring or sedate. Laubrock has an intimate tone and lures you in on ‘Prelude to a Kiss’, Alessi soars on ‘In Your Own Sweet Way’, the angular tones of Kris Davis on ‘Yesterdays’ offset the silky smooth basslines of Gress. And throughout it all Rainey holds things together.

It is always interesting hearing artists in new settings – and even moreso hearing them take on classics and standards. Obbligato delivers a quality experience on all fronts – not one that will push you like Thumbscrew, but definitely one that rewards multiple listens.

The albums are available on iTunes for $9.90and Amazon MP3 for $8.99, and also streaming on Spotify.

Here is a video of the Tom Rainey Trio (with Davis and Laubrock):

So … what is YOUR jam this Wednesday?

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