Interview Music, the new album from my Quintet+1, is officially out there, and some very gratifying reviews have been coming in.
First, from Doug Ramsey at the great music blog Rifftides:
In the articulate liner notes for his fifth album, Carey explains that he writes music not to label it “about something” in order to snag foundation grants, but to employ what he’s learned and make it work for him and his players. Interview Music does that. Even better, it works for the listener. … His sextet plays the five-part suite with drive, wit, swing and a palpable unity of purpose. It is complex chamber music with solo space for Carey, long an impressive trumpeter; bass clarinetist Sheldon Brown; alto saxophonist Kasey Knudsen; pianist Adam Shulman; bassist Fred Randolph; and drummer Jon Arkin. They are among the cream of the Bay Area’s jazz community. In a victory for his creative policy, the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music supported Interview Music with a grant despite its not being “about something,” which, of course, it is. It’s about music.
[Carey] has returned with an ambitious new recording that succeeds in its effort. Interview Music is a fantastic suite that sees some of Carey’s most adventurous writing matched with truly outstanding performances. … While the production is one of some range, it is accessible, even as weaves and winds its way forward. … Carey’s writing affords each of his fellow players many moments to exhibit their depth of talent, and in the process, allows the entire project to shine.
And a listener left this very thoughtful review on the album’s iTunes page:
Very inspiring to hear this kind of sophisticated composition and playing coming out of the Bay Area. As an ex professional trumpet player who grew up in Bay Area and studied and played in NYC, this is really the first time I’ve encountered such a high degree of post-bop compositional creativity and craft come out of the Bay Area with the exception of Joe Henderson of course. Also very fine playing all-around, with a special shout out to Ian who is obviously a really accomplished trumpeter and improviser.
The album also got mentions from Marc Myers’ Jazzwax (“this abstract original suite for quintet led by trumpeter Carey has classical overtones”) and Tom Hull (“a sprawling suite with four parts and an interlude, a fine example of postbop composition and arrangement”). It’s great to know people are giving it a listen, 15-minute tracks and all!
Finally, here’s another sample track from the album, the interlude and first half of the fourth movement. If you’d like to hear more, please pick up a copy for yourself!
Even though my most recent record, Duocracy, came out way back in February, it’s nice to see it still getting attention here and there. This is a natural result, I think, of the constantly overflowing state of the reviewers’ inboxes—but just like I will occasionally see a CD laying around which I’d forgotten I bought and end up loving it, sometimes a reviewer will get around to a record long after it’s been released. In this case, the reviewer—Peter Hum of the Ottawa Citizen, a very thoughtful writer whose work I’ve read for years—paired the review with another trumpet/piano duo (Dave Douglas’ and Uri Caine’s Present Joys, which I have to pick up!). Here are some highlights from his very kind write-up:
With their fine and refined album Duocracy, trumpeter Ian Carey and pianist Ben Stolorow have a fresh and rewarding musical partnership. The album appeals immediately because the two San Francisco Bay Area musicians, both in their late 30s, are both lean, polished players with lots of facility and flow, but the good taste too to never throw in extra notes. Their disc reveres jazz tradition but feels unbounded too, blessed with spontaneity, poise and personality. The album presents savvy selection of 10 tracks… Cherokee, while taken at its requisite breakneck tempo, feels like a walk in the park, with Carey and Stolorow playing freely and expressively. Stolorow’s a sensitive and varied accompanist throughout the CD, but on Cherokee he really shines as he finds different ways to keep the tune moving forward… There’s more jazz cred on a rendition of Thelonious Monk’s striking, finger-stumping tune Four In One. … Versions of Gigi Gryce’s Social Call, which saunters nicely, and Comin’ Along, a contrafact built on the chord changes of Benny Golson’s Along Came Betty, keep the bop flame burning. On those and a few other tunes, there are stretches of tandem, contrapuntal improvising that stand out for their clarity and simpatico. Trumpet and piano duets pop up infrequently in jazz. Don’t ask me why. And yet, Carey and Stolorow make the pairing sound like the most natural and rewarding team-up going.
Overall I’ve felt that the press Duocracy received mostly focused on the “straightahead-ness” of the record, and failed to hear the ways that Ben and I tried to take the album out of the standards-jam-session model—especially those “stretches of tandem, contrapuntal improvising” Hum mentions above—so it’s gratifying to hear from someone who really picked up on that.
Duocracy has only been out a few days (pick up a copy here!), but we’re already seeing some nice reviews coming in, which is really gratifying. Here are some of the first batch!
From a thoughtful review from Stephen Graham on the great site marlbank (check out the site for two versions which inspired our rendition of “Goodbye”):
More traditionally minded on the surface at least than Roads and Codes, last year’s Ian Carey Quintet + 1 outing, Duocracy opens with ‘Little White Lies,’ the Walter Donaldson song from 1930 that Paul McCartney has mentioned was a childhood favourite of John Lennon’s. Trumpeter Carey, who’s in his late thirties and is from New York state, teams here with NYC-born pianist Ben Stolorow a few years his junior who debuted in 2008 with I’ll Be Over Here and whose input gives the album its deceptively early jazz feel. Carey has width and expressive resource in his approach, Stolorow too, and while Roads and Codes found Carey more in Dave Douglas-land here the trumpet stylings are far more mainstream, for instance the sound of Ruby Braff springs to mind a bit, and I suppose Stolorow could be compared to the late Dave McKenna in that his style borders on stride but never quite goes the full furlong as that would be just too retro. … Ultimately whatever the way in to the song, and the same applies for the album as a whole, while Stolorow and Carey play their own particular blend of goodbye, jazz fans may well prefer a firm hello to this appealing duo. (3 1/2 stars)
Face it, a duo format is almost as “naked” as a performer can get so any apprehensions from the artists are more than understandable … yet there is unique chemistry that allows Carey and pianist Ben Stolorow to form a dynamic duo of sorts that slays the more pop oriented tunes from the classic days of jazz. Ben moves well away from the more traditional role of accompanist to achieve that “duocracy” of equal lyrical footing… There is an understated eloquence that takes hold throughout the release. Melody is back, changes are done with finesse and not a self-indulgent pretentiousness that may find one artist attempting to out perform the other. While the tunes are familiar and some bordering on eclectic, the original composition “Comin’ Along” is an abstract showstopper formed around the Benny Golson standard “Along Came Betty.” Rodgers and Hart’s “You Took Advantage of Me” is the perfect vehicle for the harmonic gifts of pianist Stolorow. The Mancini tune ” Two For The Road” is a master class for trumpet players that are looking to work on a more expressive tone, Carey simply nails it. (5 stars)
San Francisco jazzmen Carey (trumpet) and Stolorow (piano) did some gigging together last year in the Bay Area and decided to make it legit, the result being Duocracy. The album offers 10 tracks, including American Songbook standards and showpieces like “Cherokee.” Carey’s tone and approach are in the hard-bop style, somewhere between Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown in their bouncier moods. Stolorow skillfully backs him up, and there’s a meeting of the minds on every song. When two fine players are having fun, it’s good to listen in.
Always interesting to read which influences different listeners hear in one’s playing! From Chris Spector in the Midwest Record:
After years of striving and making albums everyone raves about, this duo that has worked a lot together but never recorded together decided to take a tip from us and go after hours. Just the two of them smoking it up hotel piano bar style on a set card of warhorses carries the day quite nicely and you can tell they enjoy recording with the pressure off. In fact, these Bay area staples sound like they were kicking it out in the bar at this swank hotel on the rehabbed Berkeley waterfront with the sun going down in the background and the glasses clinking. First class throughout, loaded with the joy of playing for the fun of it. Infectious–in a good way!
The duo of Richmond trumpeter Ian Carey and Albany pianist Ben Stolorow is the most adventurous and exciting trumpet-pianist pairing since cornetist Ruby Braff and pianist-organist Dick Hyman played together a quarter century ago. But whereas Braff and Hyman’s music was rooted in the pre-bop mainstream, these two East Bay musicians draw stylistically on a somewhat later era. They have a terrific new CD titled Duocracy on which their approach to melody, harmony, and rhythm suggests Thelonious Monk as they playfully explore “Cherokee,” “Little White Lies,” “You Took Advantage of Me,” “All the Things You Are,” and other popular standards, plus Gigi Gryce’s “Social Call,” Monk’s “Four in One,” and a tune of their own.
Meanwhile, I was a guest on KCSM’s great Desert Island Jazz show last week, and had a great time talking about some of my all-time favorite music with host Alisa Clancy and producer Michael Burman. My playlist can be found here–it was incredibly challenging to winnow my list down to 8 tracks, but I feel good about who made the final cut. I also recommend taking some time to check out their full list of past guests and picks (who range from local heroes to international legends), which is fascinating. You can listen to my episode here:
Finally, don’t forget that Ben & I have one more CD release show next Friday (March 7)–our North Bay version–at Old St. Hilary’s in Tiburon. If you weren’t able to make it to the Jazzschool (uh, make that California Jazz Conservatory!), please consider heading to beautiful Marin County next week to hear us!
This week, the California Report (produced right here in SF by our own KQED and broadcast throughout the state) featured local jazz writer Andy Gilbert’s review of Roads & Codes:
Ian Carey possesses a bright, gleaming tone and a knack for attracting similarly accomplished musicians. Featuring material gleaned from sources far beyond jazz’s usual ken, his new album “Roads & Codes” reflects a singular vision, musical and otherwise… Carey turned the CD’s cover into a self-mocking 10-panel comic strip. The art depicts his quandary over how to present a new jazz album so that it might actually find an audience. On the back, his manga-inspired illustrations suggest the mindset with which he approaches each piece. While not presented as a suite, the album flows like an interlaced book of short stories, an impression heightened by his beautifully rendered art work.
You can check out the entire thorough and thoughtful review, which also features audio samples of tunes from the album, here:
Last year I inaugurated a feature where I talk about music which, while not necessarily hot off the presses, is still New to Me–since it’s been a while since the last installment, here are a few albums which have recently been turning my crank:
Geri Allen — The Nurturer (1990) & Maroons (1992): I once got to go hear Geri Allen at the Village Vanguard after a friend who worked at an artist’s credit union discovered money for her which she’d forgotten about, and going to her show seemed like the best way to get in touch. She was off my radar for a while before a friend loaned me an album last year, which led to me digging up more. These two are both fine early 90s efforts, with really interesting tunes and her own deeply personal blowing–and of special interest to trumpeters, great contributions from sidefolks like Wallace Roney and underappreciated legend Marcus Belgrave. (“Number Four,” an Allen/Belgrave duet on Maroons, is worth the price of admission itself.)
Derek Adlam — Masterpieces for Clavichord by Bach (2005); Christophe Rousset — Bach: Italian Concerto; Partita in B minor etc. (1992): Since stumbling on to Johnny Reinhard’s “Microtonal Bach” show during WKCR’s annual Bach Festival while I was in college, I’ve been hooked on recordings of my favorite composer made on instruments in historical, non-equal-tempered tunings–even though I love Bach on piano, once you’ve heard how colorful and interesting baroque modulations can be in nonequal tuning, hearing the same pieces on an equal-tempered instrument can be like going from technicolor to black & white. Rousset’s rousing album features a strident harpsichord in the Werckmeister III tuning, and outstanding versions of several Bach staples, including one of my all-time favorites, the Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue in D minor (check it out here). Adlam’s disc features the much more subtle clavichord (made for quiet performances in small rooms) in a tuning called “Young 2,” and a program of lesser-known (to me) pieces. (Couldn’t find a video but here’s Adlam playing some William Byrd in nonequal tuning.) If you want to get a great intro to historical tuning and the kind of color effects I’m talking about, check out this page featuring the same baroque piece played in Meantone, Werckmeister and equal (modern) tunings.
Herbie Hancock/Wayne Shorter — 1+1 (1997): It’s embarrassing, but I never got around to checking out this album until recently, when a friend put on the sublime “Meridianne/A Wood Sylph” at a listening party. (We had a great time imagining the Verve execs’ reaction in the studio–“Uh, are you sure you guys don’t feel like throwing in a version of ‘All Blues’ or something?”) With these giants, you know it would’ve been incredible even if they’d phoned it in, which they unquestionably did not. An outstanding reminder of the towering peaks still remaining to be ascended in this music. On the off chance that I’m not the last person in the world to recommend this record, I strongly suggest you pick it up.
Hi folks, hope everything’s well and good, and the gigs are as plentiful as copies of “The Da Vinci Code” in a thrift store. Things have been light in that area for me since the unfortunate closing of Coda–though of course the hunt is on for greener pastures on which to do our jazz grazing–but I’ve been hard at work on writing new music for the group, hitting local jam sessions, plus some good old-fashioned woodshedding. I’ve also got an exciting recording session coming up with Rob Reich and his fabulous Circus Bella All-Star Band (which could use some support–please chip in a few bucks if you can).
In the meantime, some good news–Cadence Magazine, a great in-depth independent quarterly which has been keeping the jazz journalism flame burning since 1976, reviewed my album Contextualizin’ in its new issue, and had some really gratifying things to say. Here’s the whole review–if you like it, I encourage you to support the magazine and subscribe.
Trumpeter Ian Carey interprets his own compositions (with one exception) on his second album, Contextualizin’, with straightforward melodic lyricism—deceptively straightforward, in fact. The modesty he presents in the liner notes he wrote coyly invites protest. Carey wonders in written form how he would ever be able to make his performances stand out among all of the Jazz trumpeters who exhibit blazing technique in an exclamatory voice. Well, Carey’s voice is declarative in a “discursive” (Steve Lacy’s word) way that draws in the listener with warmth and wordless narrative logic. Carey’s stories suggest one-on-one familiarity, as if he were imparting new information to a friend. As for influences, Carey makes plain that he has an affinity for the cooler trumpeters like Miles Davis or Tom Harrell, instead of those who fearsomely brandish technique for exhilarating effect. In fact, the first track on Contextualizin’ is named “Tom/Tom” after Harrell and trumpeter Tom Peron who likewise value linear improvisational movement throughout a performance while staying mostly in the middle range of the instrument. Carey’s composition is engaging, with prodding anticipations of the beat and vertiginous intervals involving harmonic interplay with saxophonist Francis. Carey realizes that listeners can be drawn into a performance, as well as being startled to pay attention to it. Without so much as merely raising his voice, so to speak, Carey continues through all eight of his compositions to establish moods, varied according to the thematic material at hand, and “discursively” explores them. “Questions,” which follows “Tom/Tom,” involves minor-key suggestions of mysterious forces as the quintet remains subdued and almost hushed until the soloists smolder without the occurrence of actual explosion despite Carey’s intensification of feeling and Francis’ darting and sweeping outlines over the modal basis. Keyboardist Shulman changes the background texture on some of the tracks by switching to Fender Rhodes, even as the horns remain at the forefront of improvisational activity. Although Carey has studied and performed in widely separated cities in the United States, including New York, Reno and Binghamton, his recording career commenced after he moved to San Francisco in 2001. Contextualizin’ is one more result—an opportunity to showcase “discursively” not only Carey’s distinctive style, but also his varied compositional talent. Like most other Jazz musicians, Carey plays standards too. On this album, that standard is “Just Friends,” which in beboppish fashion, Carey’s group transforms into another song based on the same chord structure. The quintet performs “Just Friends” contrapuntally somewhat like Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond’s work on Two of a Mind, except for Shulman’s pointillistic adherence to the melody. Carey’s burnished, technically precise cadenza at the beginning of “Disinvited” suggests infinite possibilities for continuation but few hints of the stop-and-start, teasing melody to follow, subject to the whimsical modification by each of the musicians. Carey intentionally apostrophized the title of his album to invite comfort with his music which attracts listeners to its content. Even so, Carey doesn’t sacrifice technique or depth of thought for his intimations of informality. —Bill Donaldson
I managed to get a ticket last weekend to see Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, and Gary Peacock (the “Trio at 20”) as the closing headliners of the SF JazzFest; I’ve never seen the group live before, so I don’t know what the standard etiquette is, but I was surprised when His Keithness began speaking after the band had been introduced (since he has a reputation as something of a “difficult” performer). “Twenty years,” he said, “is not really enough.” He spoke haltingly, in choppy phrases that suggested this wasn’t something he’d prepared; he closed his remarks by saying (and this is only my best recollection), “I feel like we should thank… I don’t know, whoever we need to thank, certainly not us. We sometimes sit backstage and think, ‘What is it exactly, that we do?’ People come to hear us, I guess, and we show up on the stage, and… something happens.”
Something then proceeded to happen for the next few hours—based on the large swaths of time I’ve devoted to listening to the Trio’s recordings over the years, I would say they had a hell of a night. The second set was especially good, opening with the rarely-played “Golden Earring” (not the rock band), a fast and rollicking version of “All the Things…” (with a long sheets-of-sound-y solo intro from Keith), and a re-creation of the funky rendition of “God Bless the Child” as heard on their very first studio recording twenty years ago. The crowd was relentlessly appreciative, and wouldn’t leave until they were placated with two encores (a muted “When I Fall in Love” and a wild, quick version of “When Will the Blues Leave?”, complete with frightening fills from Jack played on those little bowls attached to his cymbals). It made me think, “Oh yeah… this was why I got into this business.”
Announcements and thoughts from a Bay Area trumpeter and composer