What the quartet New York Voices achieves with their performance of Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo Á La Turk" disguised as "Round, Round, Round" by lyricist Lauren Kinhan is nothing short of a schizophrenic jazz "Carmina Burana." Lithe, muscular, and smart, the performance is dense and thought-provoking, deftly navigating between its disparate 9/8 and 4/4 sections.
The 9/8 sections are presented in almost astringent counterpoint, the vocals cast precisely, almost as in a cantata or oratorio. When the time shifts to 4/4 (with 9/8 interpolating every four bars of a 12-bar blues) it is done so with a "swing-shot" effect that is seamless. The vocals likewise change from the staid counterpoint into 1940s ensemble singing peppered with Nazarian and Kinhan's solos, split by pianist Andy Ezrin and bassist David Finck's tasteful solos. An old warhorse lives again.
This, Reminiscing in Tempo, is the quartet's tenth recording, following the successful Meeting of Minds with Bob Mintzer Big Band (MCG Jazz, 2018). The year 2018 marked the group's 30th anniversary as a working combo and the new recording celebrates that, albeit a year later. The group focuses on songwriting by including pieces by Fred Hersch" ("A Dance for Me"), Duke Ellington's title track, and the Beatles (a bright a cappella "In My Life") to the original compositions, "Moments in the Mirror" (by Meader) and "The Forecast is Sunny" (penned by Kinhan and Eldridge).
The pleasant surprises are two songs without words by 19th Century Cuban classical composer Ignacio Cervantes, whose " Los Tres Golpes" and "Invitación" add an otherwise missing harmonic spice to the widely strewn collection of a dozen pieces. These songs and Ivan Lins' "Answered Prayers (É De Deus)" demonstrate the groups' rock-sold fearlessness in choosing material to record. Here's to thirty more years of smart music making.