New York Standards Quartet – Sleight Of Hand (2017)

New York Standards Quartet - Sleight Of Hand (2017)
Artist: New York Standards Quartet
Album: Sleight Of Hand
Genre: Modern Creative
Origin: USA
Released: 2017
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Soul Eyes (9:28)
Ask Me Now (7:38)
In A Sentimental Mood (3:29)
Sleight Of Hand (7:55)
I Fall In Love Too Easily (5:34)
This I Dig Of You (7:49)
Detour Ahead (8:05)
Lover Man (7:42)


This is the sixth studio album from the New York Standards Quartet in their twelve-year history, which may not seem a particularly prodigious output compared to the album-every-three-months schedule favoured by Blue Note and Prestige back in the day; until you delve into the recording history of each individual band member, and realise that the relatively low output of the band is a consequence of their own multitude of solo and sideman projects.

This record follows on from the 2015 release ‘Power Of 10’ and re-unites the band with original bassist Yasukagawa for a studio session captured whilst on tour in Japan a couple of years back. ‘Power Of 10’ featured label boss Mike Janisch on bass, and the program had a number of contrafacts, or original melodies written over familiar chord progressions – a favourite device of the Tristano school of cool. The combination of Janisch’s adventurous bass and the guessing-game nature of the altered material gave the last album a questing intensity, and this record returns to territory that’s closer to the tradition; the setlist features a number of cherished old-time numbers from the very core of the repertoire. ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ is given a beautifully sensitive treatment that opens out the rhythm section to almost free-time rubato and allows Armacost to deliver the melody with dignified, emotionally charged precision and a minimum of embellishment. Monk’s ‘Ask Me Now’ is re-rendered into 7 time, but so naturally as to seem an extension of the composer’s quirky sense of timing. The title track is the sole contrafact, it’s boppish line evoking Lee Konitz or Warne Marsh, and Armacost’s linear, melodic soloing underscores the comparison, while Berkman is joyously swinging, his bouncing left hand evoking the irrepressible Errol Garner. Yasukagawa anchors a strong, elastic swing throughout as Jackson demonstrates his ferocious creativity, ensuring that proceedings always have a contemporary feel.

​ ‘This I Dig Of You’ has a bravura opening on the bass and develops into a feast of metrical modulations, but the real stars here are the ballads – ‘I Fall In Love Too Easily’, ‘Lover Man’ and ‘Detour Ahead’ are beautifully played and arranged so as to preclude any hint of staleness. This record delivers exactly what you’d expect from a band titled ‘The New York Standards Quartet’ , fully living up to the weighty expectations implicit in the title.
Reviewed by Edde Myer