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Noah Jarrett: Press

The forward-looking sextet Knu Gmoon is lead by New Jersey native and bassist Noah Jarrett. His eclectic musical background finds great summation in his compositions and the ensemble’s love of his vision is well displayed in their artful renderings. A graduate of the New England conservatory, Jarrett’s previous work includes playing with John Abercrombie, George Garzone, and Bill Goodwin.

The ensemble’s instrumental colors are clearly balanced, but more particularly it is the members’ abilities to reflect and produce an apparition of openness within softly bordered confines that sets this music apart from run of the mill fare. The collection of musicians are all young up and comers who are worthy and deserving of being overnight sensations, especially now that many of them have worked for so long in assisting capacities with a variety of New York’s best musicians. With Tony Barba on saxophone and flute, Loren Stillman on alto saxophone and flute, Mike Gamble on guitars, Rohin Khemani on tabla and drums and Rich Stein on percussion, the overall sound is not unlike some of the early “Downtown” music experimented with back before Bill Frisell and John Zorn and their work gained wider notoriety.

What Gnu Moon really encompasses is not necessarily built on individual accomplishes, though without this group of intuitive musicians it’s hard to imagine results as stellar and sublime as these. On “Remiss,” for example, solos are not so much pitted against ensemble lines as they are used as coloring to said lines. The slight pull and push of shifting feels renders “Murmer/Shout” as a translucent amorphous living and breathing entity devoid of pretention.

While all the musicians create standout performances, it’s their interaction that amazes. Loren Stillman’s off-kilter rhythmic punctuations embed “Mental Custodian” with poignant moments as the drive and light yet persuasive groove relentlessly pushes forward. Mike Gamble’s guitar work throughout the disc achieves a cleanly picturesque countenance so often negated by less worthy artists that one wonders if other guitars are even aware of how musical their instrument can sound. His light single note lines remind one of Bach inventions carried forward in time to today.

Jarrett’s bass work is solid, but by the time the last notes of “Reminiscience” are heard, one can’t help but realize it’s in his compositions and musical visualizations that Jarrett’s genius lies. Music of this kind of delight is hard to categorize and thankfully so as too much of today is the marketing of sounds. While the disc may be short on length, it’s not short on thought. Here’s hoping for more and more work from this creative collection of supple and visionistic collective.
Group dynamics and rich interplay are also paramount on the short (under half an hour) Knu Gmoon, with individual, outfront solos in even shorter supply than on Winter Fruits. The shortest track, "Weight of Water" at 2:58, has a world/folk vibe with a tabla rhythm, coupled flutes and guitar parsing a theme. The longest, "Murmer/Shout" at 7:40, opens with an exotic Eastern modal theme, percussion and guitar joined by two saxophones (Stillman and tenor saxophonist Tony Barba), then morphs into a waltz before solos from guitar (Mike Gamble) and tenor sax over variations on 4/4. That track, as well as "Mental Custodian" and "Remiss," are reminiscent of Charles Mingus in their episodic plenitude and expanding polyphonies. The creativity and unpredictability of the ensemble sound is also enriched by Gamble's cornucopia of guitar strategies and the addition of electronic "fx."
Fat Little Bastard and Naftules Dream
Wednesday, March 23, 2004
8:30pm, Ryles Jazz Club, Cambridge

Fat Little Bastard is a band that is going places fast, in spite of the image implied by its name. Together, guitarist Andrew Stern, bassist Noah Jarrett, and drummer Eric Platz form a trio marked by talent, a collective sense of humor, and a clear enjoyment of making music together. It wont be long before Fat Little Bastard leaves behind its opening act status.

The trio opened with Mustafa, a funky number in a waltz tempo. This piece belonged to Stern but was capably anchored by Jarrett and Platz, who go beyond being a mere rhythm section. They keep the piece moving in an unobtrusive manner that allows Stern to enjoy the limelight. Whether Mustafa is funk-influenced jazz or jazz-influenced funk doesnt matter; it was expertly executed by the ensemble.

The programs second piece featured Platz playing his set like a train rolling down the tracks at top speed. Stern took the tempo and ran with it, and Jarretts bass ostinato kept the piece on track (pun intended). The work was followed by an original composition by Jarrett, a Latin-tinged number in which Jarrett and Stern musically bantered with one another in a joint improv session in a style that was slower and more laid back than the programs first two pieces. From there Fat Little Bastard segued directly into its next piece, a rock number with a middle eastern feel to it. This piece demonstrated each member of the trio at his best; Stern demonstrated fast fingerwork and impeccable technique, and Jarrett and Platz ably supported their frontman with style.

A Thelonious Monk tune was followed by another rock-style work, and it is in this format that Platz is to be especially commended. His drumming is innovative without detracting from the melody, a trait that isnt always easy to find in a percussionist. Jarretts bass solo featured beautiful bow work, and he transitioned from plucking to bowing and back again with seamless ease. Jarrett is a versatile musician, and this piece highlighted his skills as a bassist.

The bands penultimate tune opened with a guitar solo, into which Jarrett and Platz gradually inserted themselves. With this piece Fat Little Bastard accomplished the opposite of what usually happens when a piece of music unfolds. Normally a rhythm is established and the solo fits into it. Here, Stern stated the solo and the rhythm section adhered to his statement. The overall effect was unexpected, musically satisfying, and simply fun. The band intended to close with Sunday Morning, described by Stern as a wacky ditty that was reminiscent of a lazy country tune with an occasional chordal twist. As the piece continued it became more improvisational, textured and layered, all while staying true to the melody from which it grew. A Danny Elfman encore called The Nightmare Before Shabbos closed Fat Little Bastards set and gave Stern the opportunity to demonstrate his banjo technique as well. Fat Little Bastard is a stellar ensemble with a strong future; its CD, An Illustrated History, is more than worth the listen.

By Katie DeBonville
Katie DeBonville - Boston Herald