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Vibranium by Chris Massey's 'Nue Jazz Project'

Vibranium, the debut release by Chris Massey’s ‘Nue Jazz Project’ is an ambitious undertaking for a first effort out of the gate. Massey, an Ohio born drummer living in New York City, brings to these compositions and arrangements an energy reminiscent of the great Art Blakey and the ‘Jazz Messengers’. The ‘Nue Jazz Project’ takes its name from Japanese folklore, wherein a Nue is a creature with a monkey’s head, the body of a raccoon dog, legs of a tiger and a snake for a tail. That description covers the diversity of this group, coming together into one being--an animal with a unique identity as individuals within a single individual, the band.

Massey’s background includes stints with the likes of Donald Harrison Jr., Joe Lovano, Dave Holland and members of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Chris is an accomplished composer and arranger, gaining inspiration from drummer-composers of the likes of Brian Blade and Jeff "Tain" Watts. His accomplishment is evident on this CD. Works like Galactus and Vibranium show a diverse talent for injecting power and soul into his compositions. He makes effective use of all the assets of his band. Most notably the complex voices available from his keys and saxes.

While listening to this CD, I felt that there was a direct link to the spirits of the great power projects, Art Blakey did come to mind as did others. Ghosts of the greats, rising out of the Newport Jazz Festival past, filling the August air with lush, complex arrangements. These powerful creations of "the Project" along with the arrangements of of the works of legends such as Joe Henderson (Inner Urge) and Chick Corea(Windows) make for a great listen. The CD has that right mix of dynamic and sultry with the movement needed to keep you paying attention. The choice and combination of songs is also commendable. This CD comes together and stays together on the excellent performance of the artists involved. I have to comment on the piano work of Evgeny Lebedev. This is a powerful performance, tying all these pieces together and providing another dimension to the rhythm section of the band. Lebedev along with David Ostrem on bass come together with Massey to lay the foundation of each of these songs and provide the engine for the band to drive these songs home. Lebedev’s work on ‘Windows’ is worthy of comment and a listen! ‘Chango’ provided a treat, a solo by Massey that was polyrhythmic and very dynamic.

I am amazed at the rich tradition contained in Massey’s arrangements. He demonstrates a knowledge and capacity to recall the critical elements of his craft and to take the familiar and render it ‘Nue’! Things you know you’ve heard before, but clearly have never heard! Vibranium is a must listen, because it proves that this ‘Nue Jazz Project’ is in fact new, fresh, powerful and worthy.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Chris Massey's 'Nue Jazz Project'
  • CD Title: Vibranium
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Independent - Artist Release
  • Tracks: Galactus(Massey), Smooth(Malloy), Inner Urge(Henderson), Chango(Massey), Windows(Corea), Vibranium(Massey), Mr. Twilight(Drazen)
  • Musicians: Donald Malloy(trumpet), Benjamin Drazen(alto/soprano saxes), Evgeny Lebedev(piano), David Ostrem(bass), Chris Massey(drums)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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