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Ways & Means by James Carney Group

No doubt, James Carney is a promising young keyboardist and composer. The New York City resident’s fifth outing is a commissioned piece and according to the artist, "was conceived from a cinematic perspective.... " It’s an acoustic-electric gala featuring some of progressive-jazz’ more prominent explorers who help signify today’s cutting-edge ambitions within the genre.

Carney excels within extended song-forms, shaded with dashes of soul via intricately developed parts and complex cadences. With layered horns, subtle overtones and melodic theme-building exercises, Carney pursues climactic overtures amid detail-oriented arrangements. He bridges the gap between various stylistic interests, yet does not veer off the jazz radar while sprinkling the session with a few nods to the avant, schema.

The septet varies the intensity level and engages in knotty unison phrasings while cycling through numerous metrics. In a sense, Carney’s cinematic inclinations successfully provide a state of continual evolvement. On "Champion Of Honesty," the hornists converge and execute on a tight-knit basis, offering notions of descent into a rugged canyon. In the album’s midsection, saxophonists, Peter Epstein, Tony Malaby and trumpeter Ralph Alessi render free-flowing dialogues to extend the oscillating frameworks into a driving impetus. In various passages, they delve into introspective choruses, but reenergize the proceedings on "Legal Action," where drummer Mark Ferber kicks up a storm, accelerated by the frontline’s impressions of urgency.

With resonating choruses and hyper-mode like flows, Carney is a cunning improviser when performing on acoustic and electric keys. And it’s a diverse program, evidenced by the temperate gospel-jazz groove heard on "Pow Wow." A whole lot is going on here. Carney’s works contain innumerable moving parts. Consequently, it’s seamlessly interwoven and uncannily cohesive; sort of like a movie embedded with snidely sub-plots and a potpourri of action-packed sequences.

- Glenn Astarita

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: James Carney Group
  • CD Title: Ways & Means
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Songlines
  • Musicians: Peter Epstein (soprano & alto saxophones), Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Tony Malaby (tenor saxophone), Josh Roseman (trombone), James Carney (acoustic & electric pianos, analog synthesizer, glockenspiel), Chris Lightcap (contrabass), Mark Ferber (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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