The latest release from Gregory Agid is drenched in the warm and playful tone of Agid’s clarinet, and one cannot help but wonder why the instrument is so underrepresented in modern music. But then again, in the hands of Agid it’s hard not to be wooed.
Jamz is made up of both fully realized songs as well as five shorter pieces that show the band in a different mode of exploration. “Jamz 1” is the most melodic of the bunch and can be woven together with “Jamz 2” through “Jamz 5” for a fuller picture. All in all one can almost hear latter day Grateful Dead drums/space elements in these vignettes. They stand in sharp contrast tonally with the rest of the recording, but certainly capture the fearlessness of exploration enjoyed throughout Jamz.
Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol’s “Caravan” has been covered by any number of musicians over the decades; however, Agid and company deliver a fresh take on this classic. Joshua Starkman’s funky riffing lets you know right away that this version is not going to be typical.
A.J. Hall (drums) and Max Moran (bass) join in laying a solid foundation for Agid, and after Agid gets his footing the band really begins to swing out. Like you would expect, the band covers a lot of territory and the players are locked in tight so that each time a new path is discovered everyone falls in at just the right moment.
Moran gets “Smokey’s Dream” started off and Agid’s playing is light and lilting as he creates a laid back relaxed feel that envelops you in warmth. Starkman’s guitar playing is elegant as he gently caresses his strings throughout. Starkman starts off “In a Sentimental Mood” taking Ellington’s piano intro and expanding it by nearly two minutes on guitar before Agid comes in. In the meantime Moran and Hall have begun to play so beautifully underneath him that you hate for the trio to be interrupted; but as one might expect, the layers added by Agid create a fuller, more realized sound without dampening the spirit that started things off. Clocking in at nearly 15 minutes, “Banjo Noir” is the longest piece on Jamz, and it provides ample time for everyone to get the opportunity to explore and play with the music. The band explores a wide range of ideas, playfully referencing what sounds like “Treme Song” and “Tequila.” Agid and Starkman shine as expected in their explorations, and Moran gets the opportunity to expand on his solid playing, delivering a nice solo as Hall dances around the drums. As the band joins back in the sound reminiscent of classic Astral Project. The full-court press of Agid, Starkman, Moran and Hall is relentless as they deliver a recording that will stand up to repeated listens.