Michael Feinberg: Blues Variant

Powerful bassist leads Noah Preminger, Dave Liebman and others in a hard-bop set that at times edges towards freer territory


This is bass player Feinberg’s debut album for Criss Cross, a label synonymous with high-quality jazz that very rarely lets the listener down; this release continues to maintain those lofty standards.

The leader chose his bandmates extremely well, for apart from the excellent Nasheet Watts, the musicians appear to have had associations going back many years, including the guesting Liebman being Preminger’s tutor when the saxophonist was a student.

Whilst Feinberg ostensibly plays a background role, his tunes form the bulk of the repertoire, the only non-Feinberg pieces being Herbie Hancock’s Eye Of The Hurricane, Preminger’s High Or Booze (recently heard on his own album) and Genovese’s Gather Power.

From the opening Blues Variant the band have a totally committed outlook, Preminger’s naturally aggressive approach balanced nicely against the piano of Genovese, who seems equally at home on both acoustic and electric instruments; his left-hand motif is a pivotal factor on the title track.

The general impression is of music wanting to challenge without taking the listener anywhere near the edge but as one would expect when Liebman joins the action, the dynamic changes slightly. For instance, Gather Power, described in the sleeve note as an unconventional blues, has a decidedly freer mood, this despite the presence of a steady medium tempo at one juncture, over which the pianist conducts some free skating. Feinberg pays tribute to his late mother-in-law as he stands alone for Improvisation (For Leslie), with Cycle Song having Preminger in a lyrical mood enhanced by electric piano.

This CD could easily be overlooked by modernists but should be considered a worthwhile purchase.

(1) Blues Variant; Saggara; High Or Booze; The Healing Power Of Grits; (2) Eye Of the Hurricane; The Water Spirit Brought Us, The Water Spirit Will Take Us Home; Gather Power; (3) Improvisation (For Leslie); (1) Cycle Song; Year Of The Ox (49.53)
(1) Feinberg (b, elb); Noah Preminger (ts, f); Nasheet Watts (d); Leo Genovese (p, elp). 17 January 2022. (2) as (1) but add Dave Liebman (ss). (3) as (1) Feinberg (b) only.
Criss Cross Criss 1413