Joel Press, Swing Explorer from Jazz Lives (03/14/09)

When I get a boxful of compact discs to review, I am full of anticipation. It’s a jazz birthday party in my apartment, as I find a knife to cut through the tape and unwrap the newspaper protecting the CDs. Now, my first reactions aren’t always trustworthy. Sometimes a CD I greet with glee turns out to be dull. And occasionally something that looks tepid jumps right out of the chamber into my heart.

This time, the box included a new CD by saxophonist Joel Press (known far and wide in Newton Massachusetts and the Boston jazz scene) and pianist Kyle Aho. It’s called UNTYING THE STANDARDS and I admire it tremendously–for the way it balances “traditionalism” (the loving respect for the original melodies and a seductive rhythmic pulse) and “freedom” (brave explorations outside and inside). I expect I will have more to say about this CD soon.

But for the moment, I would urge you to visit Joel’s site––to see a video clip of him blowing the blues with a purring tone and high emotional intensity, rocking back and forth as if caught wholly by jazz. And you can read his own reminiscences of musicians and scenes past, although he is no museum exhibit himself. In addition, you can read my own 2006 review of his CD, HOW’S THE HORN TREATING YOU?–where I couldn’t restrain my enthusiasm. He’s someone you ought to know. And I’m going back to my slow savoring of his new CD–an aesthetic meal too rich to be gobbled up in a sitting.