2007 Never Before Released Jazz Album Made For These Times

According to the liner notes for this record that's guaranteed to knock you out in a good way, both musically and sonically, the aggregate known as "The CO-OP" began as an "ad-hoc" backing band for the Swedish singer-songwriter Malin Johansson, A/KA Blue Utopia. The more you search online for information about Ms. Johansson or Blue Utopia, the less you'll find, not that it really matters.

Back in 2007 the Brown Brothers, which I think is a loose association of New York City area musicians and cultural mavens wanted to "cross-pollinate" jazz and pop musicians, so they called upon trombonist and band leader Wycliffe Gordon to lead a group backing the mysterious Johansson. The equally mysterious Brown Brothers had noted Gordon's various gigs around New York, including one with his quartet at The Village Vanguard back in 2006.

The Brothers completed the group with bassist/composer Derrick Hodge, trumpeter/flugelhorn player and composer Jeremy Pelt, drummer/composer Kendrick Scott and keyboardist (vibes, marimba, piano, glockenspiel) Warren Wolf.

In other words a group of highly accomplished musicians, all of whom were composers/bandleaders.The liner notes don't discuss the outcome of the Blue Utopia gig, or if there even was one, but when the group of band leaders/composers got together the results were so harmonious all decided to compose, play and record together, the result being this musically adventurous, often playful and good humored album. It also has some simmering, darker moments and more that are lustrous and beautiful.

For more about this please watch the video, which includes a taste of the music, but first please finish reading this review!

On his album Bish Bosch, the enigmatic writer/singer Scott Walker once sang disparagingly about, I assume, a former lover: "If shit were music you'd be a brass band". Walker may not like brass bands, but here Pelt and Gordon alone produce at times here a virtual brass band I think Walker would like.

The music goes from cerebral and gorgeous MJQ-like on side two's opener "Katrina" wherein Mr. Wolf plays Milt Jackson to Mr. Hodge's Connie Kay to raucous Bitches Brew-like on "Jakes Dilemma" and real brass band playful on Mr. Gordon's closer "Okay!", which is.

Had I unboxed and played this album before I produced my "Mallet Madness" WFDU radio show of course this album would have been featured on it . Warren Wolf's mallet work is a highlight here, though everyone shines including the recording engineer Steven Mandel, who somehow makes ProTools sound like tape. This is among the most three-dimensional, warm and transparent digital recordings I've ever heard. When you experience the round shimmer of the vibraphone and the convincing cymbal sound as well as the overall image three-dimensionality you'll have trouble believing it's been recorded digitally.

Now perhaps that has Mr. Mandel rolling his eyes, but if this is how ProTools can sound, why is it that few manage to produce anything close to this kind of sonics? The venue was the late, great Clinton Studios, which closed in 2010. This was recorded December, 2007. No doubt that had an influence in the sound here but clearly I need to interview Mr. Mandel!

Add gatefold "Tip-on" sleeve packaging, mastering by Roger Seibel at SAE (which I think is now closed and the lathe sold to Jack White's Third Man Records Detroit operation) and pressing at Pallas and you have a record I urge you to buy. The producers wrote me that this music has not previously been released on CD "and never will be."

For now distribution is limited (see the YouTube video for where it's currently available), but I'm urging "the usual suspects" to stock and sell. The executive producer, a J. Cohn", thanks George W. Bush, whose presidency "inspired his participation on this album." Based on that perhaps Mr. Cohn now needs to again get involved in another project. Just saying.....

skip's picture

I ordered one of these LP's, mailed a check to Brown Brothers Recordings, and received it during the week since Christmas. The video on the site gives you a good sense of the record, but the sound of the vinyl really sings. This is worth a listen and a great buy for something that you won't find in most places. They also have a CD for $15 which I intend to order to see how it sounds. Wish these guys would take PayPal. Thanks for the recommendation, Michael. Happy New Year.

skip's picture
Gillou's picture

Hello !

Music very very nice but unfortunatly with a scuff and not easy to deal with shipper.

Kind regards from France.