Sunday, October 4, 2009

SYLVAN STREET CD review Perfect Leaf

Centennial Hall concert celebrates

Sylvan Street, “The Perfect Leaf”

Summit Records (DCD 5523)

SYLVAN STREET album cover.jpgJay Rees not only believes jazz should be fun, he also believes jazz should be a little bit dangerous. As in having so much fun, it would be easy enough to slip over the edge -- falling into a mosh pit of chaotic rhythms and atonal conflict.

All this enthusiasm comes bubbling out of “The Perfect Leaf,” an album of fusion jazz elements by a band calling itself Sylvan Street. Judge for your own self on Thursday, Sept. 10, in Centennial Hall at the University of Arizona when Rees and Sylvan Street appear in concert to celebrate the release of this, the band’s debut album.

The music starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $9, $7 and $5. For tickets, contact the Fine Arts Box Office, 520-621-1162.

Rees is the professor of bands for the University of Arizona’s sports teams. Also in the group is UA music professor Kelland Thomas blowing some vigorous saxophone solos. Also in the band and performing at the concert are Frank Browne, guitar, Andrew Hix, drums and vocals, Chad Shoopman, trumpet, Evan Rees, piano/keyboards, Michael Faltin, percussion, Jeff Haskell, piano, Moises Paiewonsky, trombone and Robin Horn, drums.

The band members are friends of Rees from their music school days at the University of Miami or else are Rees’ former UA students. On piano and keyboards is Jay’s son, Evan. This kind of familiarity does give all nine tracks a family-band cohesion, which is missing from a lot of today’s digitally cold studio work.

Yet all the musicians have exceptional chops, reminding us once again that groovy guys do not hang out with un-groovy guys. Rees had a hand in writing all the songs, saying he wants to play music that reminded him of those salad days when he and some of these same players were hungry young men working the L.A. music scene for all it was worth.

Back then they played lots of pop, rock and R&B, as well as jazz of many hues along with genuine blues. For today’s casual listener to “The Perfect Leaf” those fusion roots from decades past have matured to become a bubbling jazz brew eager to flex its muscles but not afraid to flaunt its fondness for romance.

Rees calls the sound Nu-Jazz, lists the four major sound groups as: jazz, rock, Latin, funk. Every track starts with a lyrical melody, then begins to build. A trio of titles contains vocals, with lyrics written by Rees’ wife Wendy.

But whether the piece is a ballad or something faster, Sylvan Street packs the intensity of guys who love their explorations in finding ways to make new sounds out of all these special ingredients.

delivers a track worthy of some thoughtful listening. Plan on a little intelligent foot-tapping, too.


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