Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Leonard, Neil: Marcel's Window reviewed by SeaofTranquility

Leonard, Neil: Marcel's Window
Neil Leonard is no stranger to the world of jazz having performed and toured with numerous musicians. He is also the Artistic Director of the Interdisciplinary Arts Institute at Berklee College of Music. The Boston based, Philadelphia born saxophonist released his first album Timaeus in 2001. I have not had the pleasure of hearing it although it does sound intriguing; a marriage of computers, algorithms and saxophone. Although it has taken a few years Leonard is back with his new album Marcel's Window and an excellent one it is. 
On Marcel's Window Leonard's quartet includes Tom Lawton (piano), Lee Smith (bass) and Craig McIver (drums). Leonard plays alto and soprano saxophones.
All the musicians are Philadelphia born which plays into the album's concept. All the pieces refer to various landmarks in the city, a jazz concept album of sorts or at the very least a theme-based one. 
Leonard is an adventurous player focusing on bold melodies and stellar musicianship and while his playing is a focal point by no means are the other musicians left out in the cold. The band plays like they have been together for years, each one an integral part of the whole.
Beginning with "Alex in the Atrium", all crisp saxophone and riveting piano soli, the album is off to a fine start. The piano builds momentum, then eases into more relaxing territory before an outstanding bass solo takes the lead. 
On the adventurous "4951 Walnut Street", the sax starts off at a leisurely pace only to burn up the soundscape with a ripping solo. The piano and drum interaction is also excellent.
"Resounding Arc" is a jazzy ballad that slowly unfolds with pretty sax and piano. The album's last two tracks "Invisible Cities" and "Mood for Merritt" highlight the exceptional bass work of Lee Smith and Leonard's melodic sax runs. 
Marcel's Window is a tremendous effort from four world class musicians. Fans of traditional jazz will be mightily impressed. Highly recommended!

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