Event Horizon Jazz Quartet are four of Chicago's top tier Jazz musicians. The group is comprised of Jim Kaczmarek on Saxophones and flute, Scott Mertens on piano and keyboards, Donn DeSanto on bass and Rick Vitek on drums. While the band covers a diverse range of songwriters and musicians in concert, on Event Horizon, their debut album, they offer a collection of 11 originals written either by Kaczmarek or Mertens.
Even with that, Kaczmarek stresses the collective attitude of the band. “Each band member has his own strengths and unique voice that shape every arrangement. Oftentimes, Rick or Donn will come up with an idea that largely changes and improves upon my original concept. “
It is that collective sense that makes the interplay of these fine artists so clean and clear. They do not overplay one another, rather they are adept at creating space for each other.
As musicians, they are exemplary. As composers and arrangers, they are brilliantly creative. As artists, they have a unified voice that has an impact and inspiration worthy of close attention.
The album opens with Chelsea Playground (Mertens), introduced by a sing-song Blow the Man Down melody from Kaczmarek’s soprano sax. From there, Kaczmarek and Mertens take off on fanciful flights that are anchored by DeSanto’s bass and Vitek’s drums. From the opening track, it is obvious that these artists know their way around their tunes and around each other.
Guess Not (Kaczmarek) follows with a cool, cool piano intro leading into a smooth tenor sax by Kaczmarek. Mertens gets in some sweet Monkesque piano jabs but pay attention to the excellent drum punctuations from Vitek. The fun continues with Escher Drive (Mertens) which takes as many quirky turns as an M.C. Escher painting. Cool melody with some excellent bass work by DeSanton.
Dark Waltz, When Sadness Comes (Kaczmarek) is a slow rolling Jazz nocturne. The melody is delicious and the rhythm section just nails every part of it. DeSanto gets a sweet bass solo while Vitek works the cymbals. Good stuff all around.
Black Samba (Mertens) is the samba that the title promises but with a touch of melancholy that is exquisite. The soprano sax carries most of the fantastic melody while the rhythm section anchors the samba. Mertens piano is fantastic and the bass and drums are spot on. I think this is the song that stole my heart. Can’t get enough.
Event Horizon (Kaczmarek) is introduced with a cacophonous swirl with tremolo bowed bass and free Jazz that turns into something that may, in fact, be approaching a black hole’s event horizon. The swirls and gravitational tidal forces are in perfect order with no Hawking Radiation in sight. It’s cool and snappy and fun.
Great, There is No Love (Kaczmarek) has it all—the smoking drums and wonderful flute. Mertens piano is just so fine.
Evening Mist (Kaczmarek) is a slow dancer with Kaczmarek’s beautiful sax and some smooth bass lines. It’s wistful and wandering and wonderful. Beautiful.
Last Blue Jay (Kaczmarek) is as sad as the title indicates. Kaczmarek is referencing the tragic death of friends and the emotions are both warm and melancholy. Vitek’s cymbal washes over the sad sax and the touching piano make for an emotional piece.
Strut (Kaczmarek) kicks off with a strutting drum and bass and the sax adds to the attitude. The piano is almost like the Greek chorus adding to the story but with sassy commentary. This is work of fun and demonstration. All four artists get to contribute in meaningful and personal ways.
We Would Love to Have You (Kaczmarek) is the welcoming words of being accepted at a job you always wanted. The calypso bass and drums are the perfect foundation for the raucous sax and piano. It is a great way to end an album.
Event Horizon Jazz Quartet is a brilliant blending of diverse influences and inspirations that combine to create works of wonder and profound interest. This, their debut album, is the harbinger of great things to come.
They make me want to move to Chicago.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
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