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Well You Neednt Standards Volume I by Christopher Greco

The album WYNS1, one of the earlier ventures of the amazingly talented Chris Greco, is a gem and a collector's item. He has chosen all jazz standards here, throwing open the portals to sheer affluence of sound, lyricism and no-holds-barred sort of improvisation that runs through the entire album with a spring its step and a song on its lips... rather like a pristine mountain stream bubbling and crinkling it way through the ageless rocks...

The first number is " Well You Needn't", a standard from the legendary pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. Here, Chris rips through the silence with his dolorous sounding flute, and in moments, establishes the fact that he means business. He also takes up the soprano sax, an instrument he wields with sheer wizardry as in his other albums, and the mood swings to a bright and dazzling hue in no time. The improvised passages are the very backbone, embellished lovingly, and the pianist Tom McMorran rises to the occasion much as a jet-powered executive airplane would to pierce the clouds and touch the stratosphere... together Chris and Tom astonishingly fly together serenely like eagles through the blue skies of jazz. That, such soul-lifting collaboration is possible on a number composed by somebody else, is a gratifying revelation. Wonderful piece of artistry, I must say.

The next number is "Solid " from that restless soul Sonny Rollins which does succeed in painting a new canvas where the shapes of images or sound imprints are not so crystalline nor accessible on the first listen. But the spectrum of the acoustic collage sensuously shifts to a higher plane in no time at all, if the listener cares to listen in carefully. Complex patterns as in a cloudy sunset emerge now. This is Chris at his very best and his friends judiciously withdraw in the background to allow the prima donna to pirouette around while they remain barely mobile like smoothly sliding silhouettes... visually very powerful, and intellectually very effective.

Raye-DePaul's number "You Don't Know What Love Is" pops up its shy head next, like an eager beaver trying to explore an alien territory -by now Chris has managed to sweetly metamorphose the flute sounds into a youthful, almost prancing and springing leaps : creating new effects which appear wholly different from the various main courses we were treated to in the earlier numbers. There's an overall quotient of quietness in the entire rendering, which provides a solid base to allow the flute to take centre-stage and recite poetry as it were... the lyricism is both fetching and deeply provocative, leaving the listener spellbound and hankering for more. It ends abruptly though, and one can perceive the gasps of surprise from a non-existent audience.

Thelonious Monk's "Bye-Ya" is a snappy piece that takes over the stage next, and Chris on tenor sax seems to have transmogrified his persona here into a sort of musically rich giant who with his sky-high stature, blows the dark clouds away and flirtingly caresses the mountain tops, whilst digging the fresh earth with his toes... his acoustic bloom is something that can only be experienced whilst absorbing the authorative sounds. These perfectly poised soundbytes filtering through one's ears and getting assimilated through the whole system enrich the listener astonishingly well but in a carefree manner. Tom returns to the throbbing stage and delivers a sober discourse on the acoustic piano, along with a brief interlude on the acoustic bass by Chris Colangelo who chooses to whisper poetry in toour ears... the intimacy is incredibly real. One is jolted back to good old Terra Firma with Chris bringing back his earthy tenor sax to touch base once again as the number slithers on to a very subdued but lyrical climax towards the end.

The Hammerstein-Romberg standard that no jazzman worth his or her salt can ignore, "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise" is performed by Chris on soprano sax with hardly any beat or accompaniment - a fire test for any musician. The immaculate beauty of the tune remains intact whilst Chris engages in fancy flights of imagination, leaving us bewildered even during some passages where his inward journey makes the listener feel as if the simple act of listening borders on eavesdropping. This feeling vaporizes only after Tom returns with the piano and provides us with the footnotes and explanations. A solo in the middle forms the most provocative portion of the piece just before Tom brings the tinkling piano keys again, in the manner of an accomplished vocalist emerging from the shadows and playing Peter Pan so that the listeners, like a somnambulist army meekly follow them to the quietly fading end. This is an intensely performed number and one would wish Chris and Tom would record an entire album consisting of just this number and nothing else... breath-taking expanses of a dreamscape seem crop up under the practiced tools of the genius artists here.

Wayne Shorter's "Yes and No" turns up next with Chris reverting to the tenor sax whilst friends take a breather. There's a distinct European touch to this number as played by the multi-talented woodwind expert. Images of the snow-covered mountains, lazily grazing cattle with brightly colored apparel of maidens lolling on hillside, steeply sloped chateuax and the icy winds blowing through the entire picture postcard scene, are the images leaping through the mind and sticking to the sensibility of the listener with persistence. There is a crisp rhythm throughout the number with the drummer Otis Hayes providing a rocksteady accompaniment and yet throwing in small flourishes and embellishments with the cymbals and the snare drum now and then. At times, the drummer and the saxophonist seem to be busy doing their own thing and yet maintaining a highly meaningful collaboration. This is a sample of jazz at its best, for it encompasses every thrilling element of jazz in such a small offering. Tom returns towards the end with his piano and appears to be providing us with a running commentary on what the other two had been presenting, his supervisory sort of acoustic remarks sort of confine him to an another channel whilst Otis and Chris have a field day much like frisky lambs at play on a sunny day.

"Goodbye Porkpie Hat" yet one more heavy standard now from the pen of the redoubtable genius Charles Mingus spreads itself for our scrutiny, next. Chris treats us to the celestial sounds of three clarinets here, and the effect is : as if the master painter has deigned to come down to exchange his huge brushes for the tiny pastel color brushes which are used for producing patterns as delicate as in Chinese paintings... it's a different world altogether here. The tune is fundamentally a brooding and rather morose-sounding piece, but Chris and his clarinets make it sit up and exercise its tired limbs for a while : one can imagine the sleeping beauty finally coming awake and launching herself into a slow and sensuous dance only for own self. The lucky listener has to awaken the third eye and drink it all in. He also uses the heavenly tones of the bass clarinet to provide some unanticipated surprises in the leisurely unfurling soundscape.

Duke Ellington's masterpiece "Mood Indigo" has been played by Chris on flute and clarinet with Tom providing a backdrop, his piano scattering its glass-marble like notes in a gay abandon. The last number "In Your Own Sweet Way" by the great pianist Dave Brubeck is yet another ruminating, deeply introspective number where the piano occupies the driver's seatafter Chris has had his say on the soprano sax in a totally enchanting manner. Tom gives a very convincing account of his facile ease with improvised piano playing throughout, exploring each street at the unhurried pace of a walker. The listener benefits tremendously due to this slow exploration, and with Chris returning now to paint a new hue on the proceedings with his masterly soprano sax, getting into a free jazz routine that expands like an uncoiling anaconda,leaving the listener mesmerized and helpless, the number comes to rather a chirpy ending.

All said and done a most gratifying, soul-uplifting exercise. In answer to Chris saying Well You Needn't all we the joyous band of listeners could say is Well You Need To ! Yes Chris you need to bring us even more fulfilling fare via the use of standards performed with such huge dollops of crisp and taut freshness.... cheers.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Christopher Greco
  • CD Title: Well You Neednt Standards Volume I
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: GWSFourwinds Records
  • Rating: Five Stars
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