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Brotherhood by Jeff Antoniuk and The Jazz Update

Recordings like Jeff Antoniuk's Brotherhood invariably make me think hard about what I mean when I use the term 'modern mainstream jazz.' In one sense, it's an okay (not great) term to use when describing jazz that isn't fusion (but could have some fusion-y leanings), isn't really avant garde (but often has some 'out' harmonies and ideas), is influenced largely by the classic bop and post-bop jazz of the 50s and 60s, and consists largely of the players' original compositions. Somehow, these sorts of pigeonholes never do the music one is attempting to describe in a review much justice, especially when the artists in question have created music that essentially steers clear of the tried-and-true orthodoxy of the aforementioned sub-genres. This is the case for Jeff Antoniuk and his colleagues, and “Brotherhood” stands as a boldly affirmative statement regarding the health and well-being of modern jazz in the early 21st Century.

'Screwball' starts Brotherhood”off in a breezy uptempo fashion – I like the way the tune's stop-start rhythms contrast with the tuneful, easygoing melody. The slower, minor-keyed title track has a slow-burning, late-night atmosphere and sounds a bit like the 'soul-jazz' of the late 60s and early 70s. Drummer Tony Martucci plays a sly, odd-metered second-line rhythm in duet with Antoniuk on 'Meet Me At The Ponderosa.' The surprise here is pianist Wade Beach's amazing solo, which starts off with some humorously hyperactive stride playing before the rest of the band enters and Beach switches styles and finishes his spot on a ring-modulated Rhodes. Somehow, it works incredibly well, paving the way for Antoniuk's big-toned tenor solo. Sadly the song is faded out during a promising drums-and-tenor duet. 'Global Village' pays homage to Afro-Latin music with its insistent, rolling 6/8 rhythm, and benefits enormously from Martucci's skill on congas and batá. The tune gets a kick from Martucci and Antoniuk (who blows some nice soprano sax here) when it modulates into a brisk 4/4 based on the one in the 6/8. Martucci's Elvin-esque solo on this tune is also quite impressive. Beach returns to the Rhodes for the mellow 'Waltz With The Wind' and – my favorite track on the CD - the oblique, funky, multi-sectioned 'Mister No Bones.' On the latter, Antoniuk, on tenor, is in particularly fine form, and Beach's solo demonstrates that he has a true appreciation of the Rhodes sound. 'Slickery' - written by bassist Tom Baldwin – is perhaps the most straight-ahead tune on the entire CD and has a friendly, bluesy feel.

There are three standards here: Billy Strayhorn's 'Isfahan,' Cole Porter's 'All of You,' and a fascinating intertwining of Tadd Dameron's 'Hot House' with Theloniuos Monk's 'Evidence.' Antoniuk and Beach play the Strayhorn tune as a duet – they are really in their element here, and they take full advantage of the improvisational opportunities offered by the tune's sweet changes and relaxed feel. Martucci and bassist Baldwin are just barely present on the Porter ballad, providing just the right amount of color and atmosphere throughout. Beach's playing is particularly profound on 'All of You,' and makes me wonder when he's going to form his own band and record a CD or three! The Dameron / Monk conflation has a tricky arrangement, with Baldwin and Antoniuk playing the head before launching into a brawny swing for solos by Antoniuk, Beach, and Baldwin (who shows he's capable of far more than solid support here).

Brotherhood is an excellent jazz CD with great playing and a number of interesting compositional ideas. This is the sort of CD that you could play for non-jazzers at a party, or sit down with by yourself for a solid listening session.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jeff Antoniuk and The Jazz Update
  • CD Title: Brotherhood
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Jaju Records
  • Rating: Four Stars
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