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Guitarist Larry Corban is known for his daredevil solos and instinct for well-placed excursions into the realm of improvisation. His talents are demonstrated on his latest recording Emergence, a post-bop/straight-ahead jazz assortment containing six originals and two covers. Joining Corban on the tracks is saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi and members of the Aperturistic Trio, pianist James Weidman, bassist Harvie S and drummer Steve Williams. Collectively, the quintet creates the album of Corban’s dreams.
He provides, “I’ve been listening to Jerry and Harvie since I was in high school. Getting to play with these guys is like getting to play with the Beatles or a similar band of superheroes!” He enthuses, “Each member of the ensemble can play in a myriad of styles that allows for a huge breadth of scope when sculpting new material. Generally, they can take any new composition and transform it into something better than I intended.”
How did Corban manage to meet and connect with his heroes and form a lifelong bond? He recounts, “I met Harvie S on Facebook of all places. In 2009, I decided to reach out to my favorite bass player, Harvie S, and asked him if he wanted to get together and play. I sent Harvie some videos of my playing with the Larry Corban Electric Trio, and we started doing sessions with various drummers, workshopping my tunes for four years.”
Fast forward, he chronicles, “In 2013, we decided it was time to make a guitar trio record. Harvie put me in contact with drummer, Steve Williams, and we made The Circle Starts Here for Nabroc Records. The following year it was thought that it would strengthen the ensemble to add a pianist. Harvie connected me with James Weidman”
He clarifies, “Harvie, Steve, and James are also a band called the Aperturistic Trio. In 2014, we made a record called The Corbanator – Larry Corban & The Aperturistic Trio. This group is what I consider the core ensemble for my records.”
“In 2016,” he furnishes, “we made Corban Nation and added guest alto and soprano saxophonist, Steve Slagle, for three cuts. This album had me compositionally moving in a funkier direction with the occasional use of effects like distortion on the guitar. Since I already have a history of three recordings done with the Aperturistic Trio, I wanted to continue that band development process. Now in 2019, we’ve released Emergence with tenor saxophonist, Jerry Bergonzi, as the added guest for four cuts.” The four tracks that feature Bergonzi are “Table Steaks,” “Sea of Fire,” “On The Fly,” and “Soon To Be.”
“I met Jerry through Harvie S,” he recollects. “Harvie contacted Jerry about playing on the session. Based on Jerry’s schedule we set a record date. I had heard about Jerry in high school in late 80’s. At the time, Michael Brecker was quoted as saying ‘Jerry Bergonzi is his reason for getting up and practicing every day!”
Inviting guest soloists on tracks has been a pattern on Corban’s records. He notes, “I’ve been having guests on my records for the last two releases. The last CD had Steve Slagle on alto and soprano sax for three tunes. For Emergence, Harvie S suggested that we get Jerry Bergonzi on tenor sax since they had started playing together at Jerry’s residency at the Lillipad in Boston. I was able to get Jerry on a weekend when he was playing in New York City to record with us.”
He recalls, “The plan for the tunes we recorded with Jerry for Emergence was that we were going play one of Jerry’s tunes ‘Table Steaks,’ which is a contrafact melody over the chord changes to ‘Stablemates’ by Benny Golson, two of my favorite tunes from my catalog (‘Sea of Fire’ and ‘On The Fly’), and a tune that Harvie specifically wrote for Jerry and me to play on this record (‘Soon To Be’).”
“I didn’t need to give Jerry any verbal instruction on ‘Sea of Fire’ and ‘Table Steaks,’” he vouches, “other than solo order. We fixed a note in the tenor melody of ‘Sea of Fire’ because it was incorrectly written down. We doubled the melody on ‘Sea of Fire.’” He specifies about the track, “I came up with the title of ‘Sea of Fire’ because the melody is so angular rhythmically and the chord changes dense harmonically that the tune is a sea of fire to play through.”
Regarding the latter track, he illuminates, “I played the trumpet part on ‘Table Steaks’ as an added harmony part in my Logic Pro X home studio. During the main recording session at Teaneck Sound, I doubled the melody with Jerry on ‘Table Steaks.’ Through email I had Jerry check if I got the notes right on the trumpet part for ‘Table Steaks.’”
Another track, “Observer Effect,” also evolved incrementally as the musicians shared their ideas and actively collaborated. He remembers, “‘Observer Effect’ was conceived around the opening eighth note line of the tune when the band goes into time. It felt right to keep it in a straight eighth note, ECM feel. This tune is my ‘Starry Night’ by Vincent Van Gogh. It went through several edits before arriving at this final version. I got together with Harvie a few times to workshop this tune into the version that it is. Composition to me is about the process of editing!”
He observes, “With each recording, I try to do something I haven’t done before on previous recordings. [The track] ‘Non-Determinism’ was the first time I ever wrote a ballad that was floating in and out of time. It’s free and metric. That’s something I’ve never done before!”
He reflects about his experience during the recording sessions for Emergence, “The biggest challenge is getting to all the parts of the process from recording to final product seamlessly without sacrificing any angle of the vision of the project for expediency. Get who is best for your project not who’s conveniently part of your friend network!”
Overall, he describes, “This record is straight-ahead and hard swingin’ in a mid-60’s Blue Note way.”
Rather than giving the recording a retro title, Corban christened it with a much more forward-thinking appellation. He explains the reasoning behind the album title Emergence, “It’s a math/music connection. Emergence Theory is the New Theory of Everything in Quantum Physics. Emergence Theory is too long of an album title, so I shortened it to Emergence. Another take on the idea is that this music was in a process of emergence through the moment of spontaneous combustion like Michelangelo allowing the sculpture the process of emergence from the stone. Having Jerry Bergonzi definitely created an emergence of some fantastic musical moments!”
Enhancing those musical moments is the guitar model of guitar that Corban plays on the recording citing, “The guitar I play is a Gibson L-5 1978 CES Series. I like this Gibson L-5 specifically for the sponginess of the sound of the chords and intervals. It really has the Wes Montgomery sound built into it!”
He muses enthusiastically, “I have 24 different guitars, due to the musical theater work I do. I try to have all the different guitar sounds (acoustic steel string, nylon string, 12-string, all the different electric guitars) and doubles (banjo, mandolin, and ukulele) when they are called for.”
Like his array of guitars, Corban also has an array of sites where listeners can find his music. He lists, “Emergence is available at www.larrycorban.com/store, CD Baby, Apple iTunes, Amazon, and streaming outlets like Spotify and YouTube. I’m in the process of setting up a regional tour. Stay tuned at my website, www.larrycorban.com.”
He considers, “I would like to play jazz festivals and more jazz clubs within the Tri-State area and over time travel to Europe: UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.”
“I find audiences for my music,” he projects, “through people that also enjoy the music of the sidemen in my band that are jazz guitar fans and/or jazz guitarist, or anyone that enjoys jazz with an edgier, fusion attitude. I believe people don’t have to listen to you, you have to make them listen to you! You have to give them a reason to engage with your music and that is not a given!”
“Each project teaches you something new,” he attests.” The mix on Emergence is the best yet! The biggest lessons I learned with Emergence is ‘keep your eye on your vision’ and ‘the health of your creative project comes first.’”
The A-list of superheroes playing on Emergence give Corban the confidence to take his music to the public. Through the collaborative process, tracks are finely tuned, and his vision is materialized. As an artist and a musician, Corban achieves the album of his dreams.
Despite the fact that we’d like to believe the proverbial stars align on any given day, it isn’t always the case. However, when they do, magical things can happen – but only when one is present in the moment almost like an alchemist or druid, to channel that kind of alchemical reaction that brings about this magic. As in life, so also in the arts; in music, to be precise. And this recording, Emergence by Larry Corban is a case in point. Here is a recording replete with intelligently conceived and executed repertoire in which the composer and guitarist, Mr Corban (and his entourage) reduce the complex nature of the art of composition and improvisation, the very agencies, forces, or phenomena of physical nature of Jazz is – elementally – at its finest.
Much of this has to do with the music itself. Each song displays, for instance exquisite craftsmanship (probably) even before a note is played. There is, for instance simplicity of melody, a complexity of harmonic conception and rhythmic intent to describe and paint emotions exactly as they were probably conceived. How do we know this? Precisely because of how little musical ornamentation is required to express things like melodic intent, harmonic cleverness and rhythmic intent; and yet how each song does exactly what it was intended to do, namely to ripple through the body and its senses with the express intention of making one want to dance. One such example is “Sea of Fire”, for instance… which is drenched in a molten flow of melodicism and rhythm, as if the instruments (participating) are licked by tongues of fire.
Not everything is propelled by a shower of brimstone however. “Tasty Steaks” bubbles alright, but only because it seems to suggest something dripping with a delectable sauce. This is poured upon the melody by the glimmering warmth of Jerry Bergonzi’s tenor saxophone. The saxophonist also returns to adorn “Soon To Be” and “On The Fly”, after having contributed to the flame-throwing on “Sea of Fire”, of course. Mr Bergonzi appears on just four charts. It is the pianist James Weidman who is flame-thrower-in-chief as he contributes mightily to the momentum of the music throughout. And while on the subject of rhythmists, Mr Corban leaves nothing to chance with the inclusion of the incomparable Harvie S on bass and Steve Williams on drums; the latter long since having attained a kind of sainthood with Shirley Horn.
Although Harvie S is predictably brilliant throughout, the bassist arrives at his finest moment in the introduction and first part or choruses of “Never Let Me Go”. The profound dolour of his playing captures the aching beauty of the melody and is drenched in the emotion of the underlying narrative of the piece. Mr Williams’ accompaniment is magical across the songs, He plays with impeccable taste, understatement and elegance, and forever articulating what true percussion colouring is all about by accentuating the music with perfect swishes of the cymbals and with never a seemingly curved lines on the skins of the drums.
Which leaves Larry Corban, of course… Displaying complete mastery of his instrument in the grand manner of a virtuoso, the guitarist gives notice that he is an artist of the first order. His playing is gorgeous; deeply penetrating as well as feather-light. There is never a temptation to ornament for ornaments’ sake; every run and every dazzling arpeggio is dedicated to embellishing the music towards completing its harmonic concepts. Mr Corban also has perfect time and best of all his fingers melt on the strings creating the kind of rolling, flowing molten style that has come to be his exquisite calling card.
Track list – 1: Sea Of Fire; 2: Table Steaks; 3: Observer Effect; 4: Soon To Be; 5: Never Let Me Go; 6: On The Fly; 7: Non-Determinism; 8: You And The Night And The Music
Personnel – Larry Corban: guitar; James Weidman: piano; Harvie S: contrabass; Steve Williams: drums; Jerry Bergonzi: tenor saxophone (1, 2, 4, 6)
Released – 2019
Label – NABROC Records
Runtime – 51:47
Raul da Gama, Aug 20, 2019
Top 30 Jazz Charts
WEEK ENDING AUGUST 13
Emergence is #26
|1||1||CHICK COREA AND THE SPANISH HEART BAND||Antidote||Concord Jazz|
|2||9||DAVE ROBBINS SEXTET||Joan Of Art||Cellar|
|3||5||MIKE CLARK||Indigo Blue – Live At The Iridium||Ropeadope|
|4||3||ANAT COHEN TENTET||Triple Helix||Anzic|
|5||23||PUREUM JIN||The Real Blue||Cellar Live|
|6||22||BRAD TURNER QUARTET||Jump Up||Cellar Live|
|7||7||AL FOSTER||Inspirations & Dedications||Smoke Sessions|
|8||8||RICH WILLEY’S BOPTISM BIG BAND||Down And Dirty||Wise Cat|
|9||10||STAN GETZ QUARTET, THE||Getz At The Gate||Verve|
|10||2||LUCY YEGHIAZARYAN||Blue Heaven||Cellar|
|12||16||VOCTAVE||Somewhere There’s Music||JameyRay|
|13||12||DAVID FINCK||BASSically Jazz||Burton Avenue|
|14||11||JOSHUA REDMAN QUARTET||Come What May||Nonesuch|
|15||17||WAYNE WALLACE LATIN JAZZ QUINTET||The Rhythm Of Invention||Patois|
|16||19||MARY STALLINGS||Songs Were Made To Sing||Smoke Sessions|
|17||N/A||VERONICA SWIFT||Confessions||Mack Avenue|
|19||14||ANTONIO ADOLFO||Samba Jazz Alley||AAM|
|20||N/A||JON BATISTE||Anatomy Of Angels: Live At The Village Vanguard||Verve|
|21||N/A||GRETJE (GRETA ANGEL) ANGELL||In Any Key||Self-Released|
|22||15||ERIC REED||Everybody Gets The Blues||Smoke Sessions|
|23||28||BRAD MEHLDAU||Finding Gabriel||Nonesuch|
|24||N/A||MATTHEW WHITAKER||Now Hear This||Resilience|
|25||6||VICTOR GOULD||Thoughts Become Things||Blue Room|
|27||N/A||JIMMY COBB||This I Dig Of You||Smoke Sessions|
|28||24||YOKO MIWA||Keep Talkin’||Ocean Blue Tear|
|29||13||MIKE LEDONNE||Partners In Time||Savant|
|30||N/A||GEORGE BENSON||Walking To New Orleans||Provogue|
Top 30 Jazz Charts
WEEK ENDING AUGUST 6
|N/A||KEN PEPLOWSKI AND DIEGO FIGUEIREDO||Amizade||Arbors|
|28||N/A||BRAD MEHLDAU||Finding Gabriel||Nonesuch|
|29||30||PATRICK BUTLER||Sonic Stew 2||M.M.O.S.|
Long gone are the days of jazz guitar being simply a vehicle for solo blowing sessions. Since Pat Metheny, six stringers are now looking for new sounds and directions, with this album providing rich ideas and wide scopes.
Guitarist Larry Corban does some miraculous work teaming with the flexible bass work of Harvie S nd the core team of James Weidman/p, Steve Williams/dr and guest tenor saxist Jerry Bergonzi for a mix of jazz standards and originals. Bergonizi’s breathy and modern tenor blows a sleek feel to a hip walking bass on “Sea Of Fire” and the team digs a deep rivulet for the bopping “On The Fly.” Most enjoyable are the unison lines of Corban with Bergonzi on the sublimely swinging and clean “Table Steaks” and the richly harmonized “Soon To Be” coaxed along by Willams’ cymbal. Harvie S does some wonderful nimble work on “You and the Night and the Music” and is lovingly romantic during “Non-Determinism,” strumming out a rich aria out front on “Never Let Me Go.” Classy and clever.
by Sylvannia Garutch
Larry Corban is an active New York guitarist who has released four previous albums, two of which are collaborations with the Aperturistic Trio (pianist James Weidman, bassist Harvie S, drummer Steve Williams). Once again, the dynamic line up is back together again on Corban’s latest recording Emergence. The core group is augmented by tenor saxman Jerry Bergonzi, who lends his immense talents on four tunes.
Blazing from the start with “Sea of Fire” the song ignites with Harvie S’ rich driving bass line setting up the medium up-tempo swing. The Aperturistic Trio soon kicks in and the post-bop melody ensues. The trio’s swing is enveloped with warmth, it is relaxed with a big pocket. Corban and Bergonzi play the melody, which is motif based and moves through the various chordal colors. Weidman’s solo is a celebration of single note lines and colorful voicing. Bergonzi takes the reigns next, his tone is big and commands attention. His articulations are always just as exciting as his harmonic textures. Corban’s solo is a fury of notes and sweeps. Taking the triplet to double time and playing groups of sixes is a common idea he uses, to good effect.
“Table Steaks” is a relaxed swing number with a straight-ahead styled melody. After the head, Corban drives us through the chords with more speedy licks and sweeps. He is certainly on to something here, the evolution of fusion, neoclassical metal and post-bop guitar. Corban could very well be starting a new branch on the tree of jazz guitar, neoclassical post-bop guitar. Bergonzi picks up where Corban ends and effortlessly spins out a swinging solo of style and flurries. All the while, The Aperturistic Trio is laying down the hippest swing possible. Weidman closes the solos with a joyous sound from the piano. Corban’s head is in the tradition and provides the perfect launching sounds for this amazing group of musicians.
Corban has put forth another worthy listen. Filled with noteworthy original compositions and bodacious soloing by all. Emergence takes Corban’s discography a step further, cementing this fine guitarist as one to continue to watch. Highly recommended.