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Vortex by Matt Olson

Matt Olson is Assistant Professor of Saxophone and Director of Jazz Studies at Furman University in South Carolina. Olson’s extensive and impressive work history includes performances with Randy Brecker, Kurt Elling, Benny Carter, Kevin Mahogany Chris Vadala, Doc Severinsen, Manhattan Transfer, Lou Rawls, Johnny Mathis, Wayne Newton, Aretha Franklin and The Temptaions to name a few. He wrote an article on Jerry Bergonzi’s approach to intervallic improvisation. The article appeared in Downbeat Magazine in 2006. Some of his personal inspirations include Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Jerry Bergonzi, Steve Grossman and Rich Perry.

Olson is a master of jazz improvisation - this is audible from the start of the album, entitled "Vortex." Throughout the entire listening experience you are given a feeling of being at a small intimate venue in which you have garnered a front row seat. There is a truly collaborative element to this album. The opening self-titled track, "Vortex," is just that--a whirlpool of sounds and eclectic improvisations. Dom Moio provides a steady balance on drums amidst Olson on tenor saxophone and Sielert on trumpet. Mike Kocour on piano is stunning. Olson’s solo is kept in true Bebop style. These men are consummate musicians. Together they have created the perfect ensemble with their music that will have a lasting affect on those who listen. On the next track, "Committed" Olson pays tribute to Jerry Bergonzi. The song is emotionally stirring. Olson’s playing, accompanied by the nuances of a piano and drums in the background, elevates the listener to an insightful listening experience. The next track is perfectly titled. "Playing With Fire" has a definite Latin flare provided by Kilian and Moio. "Zingaro" is an utterly smooth performance complete with a slow tempo, soft key strokes, velvety tenor, and a hint of a caress on the drums. The mood shifts with "Snake Eyes" which is another acknowledgment of Bergonzi. The solos performed by Olson and Sielert are remarkable. Moio is perceptively brilliant and adds to the complete brilliance of this track. The album ensues with "Chelsea Bridge" and "This Is For Albert," which are both very suave yet passionate performances. On "This Is For Albert," Dwight Kilian is superb on bass, and the solos taken by Olson, Vern, Sielert, and Moio are dazzling. The album ends with an Olson favorite, "Stella By Starlight." The motivation of these outstanding musicians is evident from the get-go. Collectively, they work brilliantly. Each player is given the opportunity to shine throughout the album. They have a great deal to say and that is conveyed through their music.

If you are a jazz aficionado who reveres the art of improvisation and unparalleled musicianship, then this is an album that you must add to your collection. This is a listening experience that is not to be missed!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Matt Olson
  • CD Title: Vortex
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Independently produced
  • Tracks: Vortex, Committed, Playing With Fire, Zingaro, Snake Eyes, Chelsea Bridge, This Is For Albert, Stella By Starlight.
  • Musicians: Matt Olson (tenor saxophone, alto saxophone), Vern Sielert (trumpet and flugelhorn), Mike Kocour (piano), Dwight Kilian (bass), Dom Moio (drums).
  • Rating: Five Stars
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