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August 26, 2005

Jazz CD Review Jeremy Coates

Written by
cindy mcleod

Canadian jazz news

CD Release
Jeremy Coates/ Notes by Coates< /I>
Indie / 2005

It is a great challenge to write and produce an exceptional recording project that features bass as the lead instrument. Canadian jazz bassist Jeremy Coates has achieved just that with his debut jazz/fusion release Notes by Coates, a fascinating and introspective recording that takes the listener on a journey to another dimension. This project, with a broad range in feels from swing to Cuban, offers the masterful performances of Coates, along with a stellar ensemble of players who perform his ten compositions in an artful and sophisticated manner.

This is not a recording for the feint of heart, gutsy and complex, it holds you in its grasp from beginning to end. Each composition is thoughtfully crafted, with complete ideas coming together in a cohesive and well articulated fashion, then spiced with joyfully surprising meter, harmonic, and rhythmic movements underscoring strong melodic concepts. Coates uses unison lines, tension and release, and punctuated, syncopated rhythms to take one’s imagination from a busy New York intersection to a rocky mountain path, a full spectrum of aural experience.

There’s no doubt that Coates is a master of the bass, but aside from his sheer technical prowess, which is fluent and facile, he is also a gifted composer and an imaginative, lyrical improviser. His performances include acoustic bass, 5 string tenor bass, and 6 string bass, offering an unusual and dynamic representation of the colours of the instruments. He layers the sound with keyboards and guitar, using washes, modal contexts, and drones to create the underpinning for his melodies, and defines the feels with the rhythmic interplay of drumset and percussion, the textural effect is stunning. The aural dimension is then further enhanced with tenor saxophone adding a splash of brightness over all. The musicians assembled for this project are the perfect reflection for his vision, their collective performances offer empathetic support for Coates brilliant playing, but more, they integrate to become the canvas, brushes, and paints for his artistic concept.

1/2 Step Up, an edgy, urban funk feel with a bebop head, evokes Weather Report with its melodic and harmonic concepts, firmly sitting upon a crisp drumset performance by Andy Ericson. Tenor saxophonist Dave Camwell contributes an edgy solo, with a gorgeous studio effect on the end that resonates long after the tune is over. Electronica 101, a duet with Cuban born percussionist Toto Bariel, combines electric, acoustic, and ‘chance’ music, playfully introducing the Kalimba over Barriels’ energetic conga and bata, while Coates lays down a grungy, repetitious bass line much like a chant, fused with a droning synthesizer. 55 Bar Blues, a drivin’ blues shuffle, features a cutting guitar performance by Chad Holtzman and another stunning Camwell solo. My favourite cut, A Certain Shade of Red, is a moody, spacious ballad that highlights Coates skillful acoustic bass chops, with pianist Sheldon Zandboer embodying a sparse and free performance that is deep in it’s simplicity. The Old Goat, a hard swinging bebop tune, is majestic and insistent, and is introduced with sax flutter, moving into a unison bass/sax line that slices the time solidly laid down by drummer Rob Vulic. The final cut, Bass Solo Bass, features a striking solo performance by Coates that is influenced by eastern modes, bending and stretching as though one is arising to greet the sunrise.

There are many memorable performances here, Coates has in many cases written specifically for the voices of the players on the individual tracks, notably guitarist Russ Broom, saxophonists Pat Belliveau and Jim Brenan, keyboardist Kristian Alexandrov, drummer Tyler Hornby, and percussionist Jean LeRoy. With the release of Notes by Coates he rises to the pinnacle of jazz/fusion, using flexible and broad brushstrokes to create this beautiful and complete recording, and one is treated to the inner musical voice of Jeremy Coates, a rare and treasured gift for the ears. Highly recommended. www.jeremycoates.com

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