Beekman’s Well-Crafted New CD


BEEKMAN VOL. 2 / RECABARREN: Canción al Licor del Ave. NASSER: Moved By Clouds; Something Unsettled; Intro to Verdict’s Out; Verdict’s Out. MENARES: En Otro Lugar; Perdón. VASQUEZ: Recovered; Farewell / Beekman: Kyle Nasser, s-sax/t-sax; Yago Vasquez, pn/el-pn; Pablo Menares, bs; Rodrigo Recabarren, dm. / Ropeadope Records RAD-317

Beekman, I have learned, is a Brooklyn-based collective quartet whose members met in Brooklyn in 2012. They pride themselves on the eclecticism of their compositions, which combine jazz with classical, Latin and (not for me) rock influences. This is their second album, the first being issued on the Chilean label Discos Pendiente, and is scheduled for release in October.

The album gets off to a lovely start with the slow and elegant Canción al Licor del Ave by drummer Recabarren. It’s a typical drummer’s tune in that it revels in off-beats and polyrhythms, several of them generated from the drum kit, but is unusual in its use of a lyrical melody that is not specifically Latin. What I found fascinating in this piece was the way Nasser always manages to retain at least a portion of the melody in his improvisations: a modern-day version, you might say, of the old New Orleans motto, “Keep the melody going.” In addition, he becomes quite busy around the four-minute mark yet never quite goes into that sort of hard, squealing sound of which modern jazz saxists are so enamored.

Nasser’s Moved by Clouds retains a basic 4 yet divides it up irregularly in its use of quarter and eight notes. By now I had become aware of the rhythm section’s wonderful ability to function as a unit as in the old big bands, i.e., that wonderful interlocking sound of piano-bass-drums, although here it lacks the binding sound of a guitar. Vasquez’ solo tends to develop the theme in a modal manner, which in turn leads back to Nasser’s tenor which now plays above Vasquez’ chording while the bass and drums continue to function as a single unit. This creates a whirling sort of polyphony that I found most intriguing and extremely well developed from the opening theme. This is a band that obviously hears each other well without abandoning a tight, swinging ensemble.

Beekman also defies expectations with Menares’ En Otro Lugar, a piece that opens very gently with solo piano and sounds as if it were composed by the pianist, with rich, moving chords and and elegant line. This was a piece that, to me, harked back to the 1960s…except for the fact that the melody does not have any hooks, it could have been a piece written by Antonio Carlos Jobim for Stan Getz. The composer’s solo is absolutely exquisite: I can’t recall hearing a more efficient modern solo in terms of not wasting a single note or a more classical structure in what is being played than here. And when Nasser returns, Menares continues playing in the same vein behind him, although simplifying his lines.

Something Unsettled finds Nasser playing a good Lee Konitz imitation at the outset. This is a track in which a rock beat intrudes early on, but it lets up and becomes more diffuse in varying sections. Vasquez is heard on electric piano in this one, and I found it interesting to hear him explore much more single-line playing than on the conventional piano, letting the bass provide all the harmony. Indeed, I would say that one of Beekman’s most likeable traits as a quartet is its ability to always sound relaxed at any tempo, which allows the music to flow naturally without any sense of forcing. In his main solo, Nasser switches to soprano sax while still retaining that wonderful sense of exploration without squalling or screaming. I think I heard just a touch of Eric Dolphy in his playing here.

Nasser switches once again, this time to tenor, for the a cappella introduction to his own piece, Verdict’s Out. I’m not entirely sure why this was separated from the main body of the piece in its own track; the piano into to En Otro Lugar was nearly as long, and it was part of the same band. Nonetheless, it’s a fine piece, with Vasquez’ light, airy, John Lewis-style piano particularly elegant in its subtle gradations of touch and volume. Recabarren’s drumming, at one point, almost sounds like military marching beats—an interesting touch.

Recovered is an elusive tune in terms of both rhythm and melody, a slippery elm of a piece that finds Nasser back on soprano. This time, however, he explores a much more detaché style of playing, at least in his first full chorus, exploring the tune’s quirky modes before branching out in a more exploratory solo. During Vasquez’ equally busy solo the rhythm almost, but not quite, coalesces into a more conventional 4, but it keeps running off the rails and at times increases in speed. Interesting. But so is Perdon, a piece that sounds so out-of-tempo for the first minute and a half that one wonders if it will ever coalesce into a tune with form. Well, it never quite does, but that doesn’t mean the journey isn’t worth taking! All things seem possible, musically, with this talented quartet. Vasquez settles the rhythm down for short stretches while he is playing, but then lets it slip away again when he is finished.

Ironically the final piece on this disc—Farewell—has an almost typically Americana kind of sound to it, a bit like Shenandoah. Once again there is a definite 4 pulse but it is consistently being played around with and broken up in unusual ways by the rhythm section. Both Nasser and Vasquez are meditative in their solos, playing sparsely and lyrically.

Beekman Vol. 2 is a fascinating album, low-key in temperament but continually interesting!

— © 2016 Lynn René Bayley

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