© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved
“In my career I have recorded numerous albums, but I believe this recording might be the most memorable one for me. The atmosphere was so relaxed and there was nothing to disturb that. I am proud of this rhythm section. With these guys it's simply impossible not to stay focused and be inspired by the music. We have recorded a large amount of music in a small period, so there are quite a lot of tunes on this album, but you know, I just couldn't decide on the selection.”
- Ben van den Dungen
One of the great things about writing a Jazz blog is being introduced to old friends in new contexts.
“Old” in the sense of having heard their music on prior recordings and “new” in the sense of now being given the chance to listen them on their latest CD’s.
Such was the case recently when the Jazz and Worldmusic Agency contacted the editorial staff at JazzProfiles about our interest in a review copy of saxophonist Ben van den Dungen’s latest disc
. Ciao City
I was familiar with Ben’s work from his association with Nueva Manteca, a fabulous Latin Jazz group led by pianist Jan Laurenz Hartong . This eight-piece band are a Netherlands-based Latin jazz outfit who produce a highly authentic distillation of Latin music and also embrace traditions such as Arabic, classical, Dutch Antillean and salsa. I’d also heard him on some quintet tracks with trumpeter Rik Mol, one of the more impressive young musicians on the Dutch Jazz scene.
If you love the big, round, full tone on tenor saxophone in the tradition of Don Byas, Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins then you are halfway home with Ben’s sound. And if your into the adventurous harmonics made famous by John Coltrane on both tenor and soprano saxophone, then you are all-the-way-there with Ben who manages to blend all of these together on the “big horn.”
Ben explains these influences this way in the sleeve notes:
“With all my love and appreciation I would like to thank all great musicians for their wonderful music and ideas. They have been - and still are - an enormous inspiration for me. They are with too many to mention, but be sure I carry them all around in my heart and in my music.”
Ben is no pardon-me-while-I-swing Jazz musician; he’s in your face with a big, blustery sound and a very forceful attack.
On Ciao City, he steps out in a quartet setting with a rhythm section of Miguel Rodriquez on piano, Marius Beets on bass and Gijs Dijkhuizen on drums.
Miguel Rodriguez is a name that is new to me, but bassist Marius Beets seems to be everywhere present on Jazz produced in Holland as a musician, producer and sound engineer [he served as the sound engineer on this recording], and Gijs is an up-and-coming drummer who I’ve heard play in a variety of settings, including those involving his brother, tenor saxophonist Sjoerd Dijkhuizen.
The media release accompanied the recording states:
“As often in the music of Ben van den Dungen, the music is made by an amazing combination of personalities that creates fresh music, inspired by the Jazz tradition and played with a lot of energy.”
After playing through the fourteen tracks on Ciao City, the impression that first came to mind was how well paced the music was and how diverse it was in terms of its construction.
The opening title track is an up-tempo burner based around a three-note bass vamp that hammers home with insistency due to the driving beat of Beets and Dijkhuizen. Both Ben and Miguel glide over this swinging pulse before Ben puts the brakes on and delves into an out-of-tempo cadenza to close the piece.
Next up is M&M, a blues that settles into a relaxed groove that features Ben on soprano, a difficult instrument to achieve an acceptable tone on, but one that sounds mellow given his control of its vibrato. Ben and Miguel achieve a John Coltrane-McCoy Tyner type of mood on this track, as well as, on Kenny Dorham’s rarely heard Escapade that features later in the disc.
The third track – The Mohican and The Great Spirit – is not often heard these days, although it was composed by Jazz great, Horace Silver. Played as a 9/8 ostinato [a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice], both Ben and Miguel really shine as they take advantage of the repetitive rhythmic phrase to build intriguing solos. Gijs get to let it out a bit as the band extends the vamp before closing the tune.
Next up is Ben’s Streetpeople, set in a blues-drenched-crawl of a tempo that really shows off Ben’s marvelous skills on soprano saxophone.
Cole Porter’s chord filled So In Love follows and is stylized by Gijs’ faced-paced Latin Jazz beat with the tempo exploding into a fast 4/4 clip for the solos. Both Ben and Miguel blast through the complicated chord progressions with reckless abandon creating an exhilarating, musical rollercoaster ride.
There is so much music going on in Ciao City that it is difficult to realize that at this point, you’ve only listened to five of the fourteen tracks on the CD!
In addition to a beautiful rendering of Thelonious Monk’s Pannonica, which shows off Ben’s saxophone mastery to full advantage, there is the aforementioned performance of Kenny Dorham’s Escapade, five more originals by Ben – The Pimp, Someone Like You, What About That, Don’t Hesitate, On The Flipside and two by Marius Beets, The Captain and Shuffle De Buffle, which can be heard on the video that concludes this piece.
Ben has also made available the first two tracks of the CD as Soundcloud audio-only files and we have included these as well to help give you a full appreciation of the wonderful music on Ben’s
. Ciao City
If you are a fan of straight-ahead Jazz, you can’t do much better than the fourteen interestingly arranged and beautifully played tracks on Ben’s new recording.