A couple of excellent releases by two of the bay area's most talented jazz ensembles display distinct elements of the genre's differing styles. Common Ground's traditional acoustic approach is rich with the nuances of technique that no synthesizer could ever duplicate. Throughout Evidence (named for the inclusion of the Thelonious Monk tune of the same name) the upright bass hums with harmonics and the piano and saxophone converse like old friends.
David Hardman's turbulent and almost chaotic drumming is the big attention-getter on some of the tracks, where it seems to come rumbling up from nowhere. Aggressive walking bass-lines veer and swerve through even the simplest of passages, giving the collection an urgent, prodding vitality. With its ballroom ambience, Evidence is a marvel of production as well as performance.
At the other end of the spectrum, Tampa's Citiheat captures the essence of its considerably more modern and high-tech style on Heat of the City.
Driven by a crisp percussion mix and occasional doses of Marshall Gillon's authoritative vocals, Heat of the City's nine original compositions are breezy and precise. Make it or Break it relies heavily on its repetitious chorus much as a pop single would, making it easily accessible to the casual listener. The formula is repeated, but implemented judiciously, among the meatier material here.
The weepily sentimental I Could Really makes way for Bahia Carnival, a brassy island travelog. Finishing off the CD, a stark instrumental rendering of the Police's Roxanne is used as a vehicle for solo spotlighting, most notably of Jerry Kenney's lugubrious sax and Kurt Snider's artfully syncopated drumming.
Heat of the City