Drummer/composer Mark Lipson has made a comfortable place for himself in the jazz community over the course of the past three-decades-plus. From working as a drummer and producer, to serving as an educator, Lipson has done a lot to say the least. Now Friday, Lipson will add another mark to his resume when he releases his new album, Realism. Scheduled for release today through DCC Records, the eight song record is entertaining though imperfect. The most notable of the 59-minute presentation’s positives is its musical arrangements. They will be discussed shortly. While the arrangements do plenty to make the record appealing, its lack of any liner notes detracts from its presentation to a point. It is not however, enough to make the album a failure. The songs’ sequencing works with the songs themselves to make this album appealing. In turn, the two elements make the album worth hearing, even with the concerns raised by the noted lack of liner notes.
Mark Lipson’s brand new album, Realism, is a presentation that most jazz audiences will agree is worth hearing. That is due in large part to its featured arrangements. The arrangements in question are diverse. From smooth jazz, to what sounds like hard bop, to even some Afro-Latin jazz and even full-on improve/free jazz, this record’s arrangements reach will connect with a wide range of audiences. The whole thing opens with what can be considered a touch of cool jazz and bop in ‘The Masters.’ This is evidenced especially through the performance of saxophonist Andrew Bishop and pianist Cliff Monear against the drumming of Jesse Kramer. Monear’s own performance easily lends itself to comparisons to works that Vince Guaraldi composed during his time decades ago. Dwight Adams’ performance on trumpet adds its own touch to that feel. The balance in that contrast of the bebop and cool jazz here makes for a wonderfully enjoyable first impression for the album and example of the importance of the songs’ diversity. It is just one of the songs that serves to do just that, too. ‘PJ Lids,’ the album’s penultimate entry, is another entry that shows the diversity in the album’s arrangements and the impact therein.
‘PJ Lids’ opens and closes with an advanced Afro-Latin percussion composition complete with conga drums and cowbell. That is accentuated by the addition of Monear’s performance on piano and the layered effect of Dwight Adams and Terry Kimura on trumpet and Rafael Statin on saxophone. Statin absolutely takes off as the song progresses, going full on improve with his performance. Meanwhile the rest of the group maintains its pace and energy, the whole making for quite the interesting song in its own right. It is an Afro-Latin jazz composition, but still manages to hold its own easily throughout with any and every other opus of its ilk. It also stands alone separate from the rest of this albums works, showing even more, the diversity in the album’s arrangements. The album’s title track, which comes just past the record’s midpoint, is yet another example of the importance of the album’s musical arrangements.
‘Realism’ is an active composition to say the very least. Bishop leads the way in this song on the saxophone while Kramer adds his own powerful touch to the work as he keeps time. His polyrhythmic patters are in-depth, what with the accents and structures in general. Yet Kramer misses not even one note here. Monear, Adams and bassist Miles Brown also bring their own touch to the controlled chaos of this song. The whole is so in-depth and engaging. As audiences engage in the song, they will also become increasingly entertained, even with the song clocking in at more than five minutes (five minutes, six seconds to be exact). The song stands out just as much from the other songs examined here as they do from the album’s other songs. All things considered, the songs featured in this album show clear diversity. That diversity will itself ensure listeners’ engagement and entertaining. Even with this in mind, the album is sadly not perfect. The lack of any background information on the songs in the liner notes detracts from the album’s presentation.
The lack of any background information is especially important to note because what is mentioned here is that the songs were “sourced from emotional experiences from his (Lipson’s) personal life and world events.” That is the extent of what audiences get in the way of background information. It would have been nice to have had more information on each song, rather than just have it stop so abruptly right there. Given, listeners will connect with the songs. There is no doubt as to that reality. However, without any real firm background on the songs, that connection will only be superficial. Audiences will not manage a deeper connection and appreciation for the songs since there is nothing else offered. As this critic has pointed out multiple times, instrumental music is different from music with lyrics. Music with lyrics is typically easier to interpret. On the other hand though, instrumental music is left entirely to interpretation (which can be bad) without any explanation as to their influence. Keeping all of this in mind, the album’s lack of any background information in the liner notes detracts notably from the record’s presentation. It is not enough to make the album a failure, but would certainly have helped advance the album’s presentation had it been there.
Understanding that the album’s lack of liner notes detracts from its presentation to a point, it should be understood that it is the album’s only negative. The album’s sequencing works with the songs and their diversity to make the album even more worth hearing. As already noted, the arrangements featured in this album are diverse. That diversity is accented through their sequencing. The album goes from the noted bebop/cool jazz of the opener to a more Afro-Cuban style work in ‘Tony’s Trip,’ the album’s second entry. ‘Cuernavaca’ continues that Afro-Cuban feel with its gently flute-led melody. ‘Samba De Romance’ also continues that trend before things switch up in ‘Realism.’ ‘Existentialism’ takes listeners back in a more distinct Afro-Latin direction, but instead of just letting it take the lead, the collective leans in a more pure jazz direction. It makes that Afro-Latin influence more of a supporting element here, once again changing things up. ‘PJ Lids’ als already noted takes the group in yet another completely different direction with its borderline free jazz approach set against the more distinct Afro-Latin influence also audible here. ‘Spinning’ closes out the album by taking audiences back in a more bebop/cool jazz direction, really bringing everything full circle. The album’s energy remains relatively stable throughout the course of the album, changing ever so subtly from one to the next. It is one more way in which the album’s sequencing is shown to play its own important part. When this undeniably important aspect is considered along with the diversity in the arrangements, the two elements do well to make this album worth hearing even with the one downside of the lack of background to the songs.
Mark Lipson’s new album, Realism, is a mostly positive presentation from the highly experienced percussionist/drummer/composer/educator. Its appeal comes in large part through its featured arrangements. The arrangements in question are diverse from one to the next. The subtleties in the arrangements’ variances require audiences’ undivided attention. That attention will lead to the noted engagement and entertainment from that aspect. When the diversity in the arrangements pairs with the sequencing thereof, the whole makes the album a presentation that jazz audiences in general will agree is worth hearing. That is even despite the one short coming that is the album’s lack of background on the songs. Keeping that in mind, the album proves to be a mostly positive work that jazz audiences will appreciate. Realism is available now through DCC Records. More information on the album is available along with all of Mark Lipson’s latest news at https://marklipsonmusic.com.
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