East West Quintet – Vast (2009)

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by Pico

East West Quintet, based out of the decidedly eastern locality of Brooklyn, NY, is coming out with only their second full-length album today, Vast. Starting out in 2003 as an outfit celebrating the soulful hard bop popularized by Cannonball Adderley and his famous quintet, East West quickly absorbed much of the diverse music of their NYC environs: hip hop, punk, rock and other breeds of music. In the process of doing this, they’ve managed to create their own brand of fusion jazz that adds the raw power of rock while retaining the immediacy of jazz.

Comprising of Dylan Heaney (saxes, flute), Simon Kafka (guitar), Mike Cassedy (various keyboards), Benjamin Campbell (acoustic and electric bass) and Jordan Perlson (drums), the boys crafted Vast from ten originals penned variously by three of the band members.

This five-piece band’s distinctive vision of rock-jazz—or more accurately—jazz that rocks—is sketched out from the first track “The Triumph.” Starting out with a low key modulation, the deceptively simple melody builds up to a hard-rocking crescendo that’s lead by Heaney’s sax and guest Phil Rodriguez’s trumpet. The two-part title track “Vast” likewise slowly emerges from soft beginnings to evolve into an anthemic alt-rock march that culminates into Perlson and Heaney seemingly egging each other on.

Just when you think the band may have strayed outside of shouting distance of jazz, we get “Over The Falls” with its majestic opening that comes within a hair of John Coltrane’s “After The Rain.” What follows is a winsome repeating bass figure played out in 13/16 time (I think) that provides the springboard for an extended thoughtful piano solo by Cassedy, and some impressive drum soloing courtesy of Perlson.

“Comet” is built upon a boss guitar riff, and moves into a muscular bass/drums beat while Heaney blows his tenor like Rollins over a rock rhythm and makes it sound like the two belong together. “Daffodil 11” is East West’s idea of a melancholy ballad and Kafka finds the right soft notes, but even here the song bristles with energy derived from Perlson’s always-active drums.

“Gangster Rap” won’t remind anyone of Snoop Dogg, N.W.A. or Ice-T, but it chilled-out groove was evidently inspired from that school. What’s best about this cut is that it brews together so many other strains. Pop, rock, jazz, punk combine to form a composite piece that holds together nicely through all the mood changes.

So the overall story line of Vast is that it portrays the East West Quintet as a combo that incorporates so many contemporary styles and manages to keep its jazz sensibilities intact. It sounds very listenable but pretty challenging at once. That’s not so easy to pull off, especially from a band that’s really just getting started. A lot of contemporary jazz acts might be heralded as a bridge for rock fans to cross over into jazz, but Vast is a one of the better built bridges of that kind I’ve heard in a long while.

Vast is offered on the Native Language Music label. Visit East West Quintet’s website here.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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