Do they still give out Grammy Awards for best cover art? If so, here's a nominee: a peaceful retriever in repose, chin on the floor, captured in a sanguine tone on Matt Jorgensen + 451's Hope.
A great cover, of course, does not a successful CD make. It's the music.
The music on Hope -- sax and rhythm section outing with additional sax on five of the eleven tunes, with the warm tones of a trombone on another -- falls into that familiar yet foreign sound, sort of traditional, but quite progressive, too. Drummer Matt Jorgensen seems as influenced by rock as he is by jazz. Coldplay's "God Put A Smile On Your Face" gets a forward-looking jazz treatment, with keyboardist Ryan Burns pulling wah-wah guitar sounds out of the ether, or maybe it's his Fender Rhodes, though I've never heard those sounds from one before. Or maybe it's added electronics. Not that it matters; two sax parts -- both by Mark Taylor -- dance in front of a driving beat on a simple yet compelling melody.
The title tune -- separated into three parts, slipped into the mix at three different spots in the set -- begins with Part 1, sounding ethereal, with a spiritual Indian feel; Part 3 hums into a drone-like atmosphere with bowed bass and a distant rumble of percussion: and Part 2, that closes the disc, opens with a sitar-ish hum into which Mark Taylor's sax whispers.
"Slinky" opens the set on a tight groove, plaintive sax in front of a churning Elvin Jones-ish rhythm, while "Pack Sack" rides a subtler groove, with the leader's drum work bringing the great Chico Hamilton to mind. A solid set of sounds, start-to-finish, a nice mix of originals and covers, with Mingus's "Fables of Faubus" taking things to the raucous end of the spectrum, and the dream-state Hope parts punctuating the more traditional-sounding tunes perfectly. Flip the CD cover over and even the dog is perked up and listening.