Tim Armacost – saxophones
David Berkman – piano
Michael Janisch – double bass
Gene Jackson – drums
Recorded at Tedesco Studios in Paramus, NJ, NOV 2014
Engineer – Tom Tedesko
Edited, mixed & mastered by Tyler McDiarmid, NYC
Produced by NYSQ
Executive Producer – Michael Janisch
released December 4, 2015
ABOUT THE ALBUM
NYSQ's latest recording, Power of 10 is their second release for Whirlwind and a tribute to their ten years of performing together. The band came together when three of New York’s busiest jazz players noticed they had one thing in common: Japan. Tim Armacost is a grammy nominated tenor saxophonist who has performed with Kenny Barron, Bob Hurst and Ray Drummond among many others, and is the group’s founder. He had lived in Tokyo several times and performed there for years. Gene Jackson, a drumming powerhouse well-known from his nine years in the Herbie Hancock trio as well as his performances with Dave Holland, the Mingus Band and Wayne Shorter, had recently married a Japanese woman and was splitting his time between New York and Tokyo. David Berkman, a fiery pianist who is both rooted in the jazz tradition and a harmonically adventurous improviser and composer, is a 30+ year NYC veteran of many bands including Tom Harrell, The Vanguard Orchestra and countless others. Berkman, also married to a Japanese woman, was traveling to Japan with increasing frequency.
Of course, it turns out they had a lot more in common than a love of Japanese culture. They had an approach to playing standards honed by their years on the NY Jazz scene, leading their own bands of original music and playing with jazz legends. Berkman, who writes much of the band’s repertoire, has a distinctive flair for re-casting well-known jazz standards in new and unexpected settings. On Power of 10, Songs like 'Deep High Wide Sky' and 'Hidden Fondness' are melodies based on the chord progressions of 'How Deep is the Ocean' and a reharmonized, 'Secret Love'. In the band’s hands, his arrangement of the well worn standard 'All of Me' becomes a daring, harmonically tense vehicle for Armacost’s mighty soprano playing and Jackson’s powerful drumming. Armacost’s arrangement of 'Lush Life' brings a new perspective to this classic Strayhorn ballad and his 'Green Doll’s Phone' is a playful treatment of 'On Green Dolphin Street' written to showcase the brilliant technical prowess of bassist Michael Janisch who joined them for this recording. Gene Jackson, the band’s rhythmic center who drives the music forward with fire and infectious good spirits, is much in evidence throughout the session and contributes his arrangement of Elvin Jones’ 'Three Card Molly.'
What began as a happy coincidence of three friends in a foreign land has grown into a mature collective that is more than the sum of its impressive parts. The band has toured extensively in Japan, the U.K., around Europe and the United States for ten years. These days, that is an extremely rare accomplishment in the jazz world, where economic pressures work against band longevity. The close connection between the members is evident throughout this recording: an idea starts with one player and is picked up and developed by another risk taking and improvisation abound, but there’s a sense of warmth, enjoyment and shared purpose that permeates all of these performances.
This has become the hallmark of this group’s playing: an easy rapport with one another developed through ten years of playing together and interpreting jazz classics in a highly engaging and personal way. The audience response has been phenomenal, in part because they give the listener something familiar to grab on to, before throwing in the bends and quirks that NYSQ has become known for, creating modern shapes and visions of these well-known songs. Or to quote John Fordham from The Guardian in his rave review from a recent UK tour:
“The exciting New York Standards Quartet, a group devoted to the radical reinvention of famous pop songs and Broadway show tunes…(is) a collective class act, and a delightful surprise… Playing jazz standards their way.”
"Deep High Wide Sky sounds like the Lee Konitz classic Subconscious-Lee, and Doll’s Phone Cause is a similarly byzantine bopper, driven hard by Janisch’s bass-walk. All of Me has an inventively reworked harmony and fresh rhythmic edge, an ominous Lush Life finds Armacost and Berkman reacting smartly to each other, and Hidden Fondness remoulds Secret Love as a vehicle for the gleeful collective energies of all four."
"Phenomenally bright and resourceful playing."
"Their fresh interpretations of standards include beguiling versions of Lush Life, All of Me, Embraceable You and a Secret Love which is transformed into A Hidden Fondness."
The Northern Echo
"There is an audible empathy between the players... front-rank New York musicians.”
The Irish Times
"A thrilling summation of where the group are currently at… fine interplay between members with the emphasis on melodic improvisation, ranging from the modal sounds of Berkman to the fiery tenor of Armacost."
★★★★ UK Vibe
"A fizzing, varied set of driving contemporary jazz... These are all top class players... This recording finds them digging deep into the jazz canon, having fun and serving up a treat."
"The playing is always keen, often brisk, and intelligently searching... A consistently engrossing and invigorating set from four very accomplished musicians playing at their peak."
The Herald Scotland
“Armacost and Berkman are clever players, each adept at prompting the other, always alert to the possibilities of a tune, stretching the harmonies and playing with the beat.”
★★★★ Jazzwise Magazine
“An attractive mix of heady originals, refreshing contrefacts and smartly arranged standards-all united by the group’s shared affinity for muscular groove and searing, thoughtful melody.”
DownBeat Magazine (Editor's Pick)
"This is a birthday celebrated with pooled energy and some uninhibited free-wheeling.”
★★★★ Jazz Journal
"Lush Life," such well-worn terrain for jazz musicians, draws from saxophonist Tim Armacost an amazingly inventive solo."
Jay Harvey Upstage
"Some bracingly off-kilter sounds... This kind of tension is what produces musical sparks, and the album is a joy."
"They do indeed play with the casual tightness of a group that has been around the world a few times... Don't let the "standards" part throw you. Their approach to the songbook is neither safe nor complacent."
JazzTimes Magazine (Editor's Pick)
"The group specializes in bending well-known jazz compositions and Great American Songbook staples to it whims, using postbop jazz techniques to give those songs appealing freshness through harmonic, rhythmic and melodic makeovers."
"In ten years NYSQ has become an incredibly tight ensemble balancing New York seriousness with a jam session spirit, while mutually stimulating each other with expert group inter-play, all the while creating a highly original sound."
"Exquisite musicality... One of the best modern mainstream bands around."
★★★★ All About Jazz