Michael Feinberg: Crystalize

NY multi-instrumentalist leads Aaron Parks, Jon Irabagon, Nasheet Waits and others in a set mixing fusion, hard bop and ballad


Another potent release from Fresh Sound Records, with a helpful, detailed sleeve note from multi-instrumentalist and composer Feinberg, Crystalize begins with Afro Bloo, a re-spelling and re-imagining of the Mongo Santamaria classic.

Curiously enough, it took me back to Weather Report territory with the loping theme and thickening textural colour recalling the title track of WR’s Mr Gone. Some fine, floating piano and bass interaction opens things up before the sing-song theme moves into a tougher gear, propelled by excellent drumming from Waits and inducing some authoritative, bustling tenor from Irabagon.

After the extended minor blues that is Sacred Feminine, things start to get even deeper with the pellucid rubato piano meditation from Aaron Parks which opens the following beautiful reading of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s highly melodic Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence; Feinberg joins in with some broadly phrased arco figures, picked up and developed by Irabagon. By now, you feel that this band could take you anywhere they wished.

Another Sakamoto number, the sensuously projected Tango, takes us to the title track. It was precipitated by Feinberg’s reaction to the death of trumpeter Roy Hargrove. A cyclical bass line opens up many a thought about time and longing, transience and compassion, underlined by the following distilled Feinberg bass solo that is The Supreme Uniter.

Countdown and Haitian Fight Song are respectively homages to Coltrane and Mingus, the first a flowing group-romp with fine work from Parks and Irabagon, the second a swinging and driving tour-de-force of multi-tracked solo bass with Feinberg strong in both arco and pizzicato lines, eventually to practically choral effect.

A large cultural leap then takes us to the ballad musings of Björk. A diversely weighted and projected solo from Irabagon and some tasty touches from Parks and fine brushes from Waits do full justice to the Icelander’s yearning. A further cultural shift then concludes the album as a multi-tracked, soaring and assertive outing from another distinctive female artist, the Cuban vocalist Dayme Arocena, is projected high over deep-toned and grounded figures from the core group.

As I said, you feel that Feinberg and his various cohorts could take us anywhere they wished. Highly recommended.

Afro Bloo; Sacred Feminine; Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence; Tango; Crystalize; The Supreme Uniters; Countdown; Haitian Fight Song; Cocoon; Elegua (52.54)
Feinberg (b, elb, syn, kyb); Aaron Parks (p); Jon Irabagon (ts); Nasheet Waits (d) with (variously) Morgan Guerin (EWI sax); Julian Shore (elp); Immanuel Wilkins (as); Greg Paulus (t); Jongkuk Kim (d); Jesse Fischer (syn); Melanie Charles (v, f); Dayme Arocena (v); Tivon Pennicott (ts); Jason Arce (ss); Julian Pollack (kyb). New York, February & October 2021 – July 2022.
Fresh Sound Records FSR CD 5127