It’s no secret that Brooklyn is the epicenter of New York’s youthful jazz scene. It’s not just because jazz musicians can’t afford Manhattan rents. It’s more about being where the action is, and at this point there’s no shortage of it in Brooklyn. In fact, new institutions have sprung up, tapping into the active scene. One of these, Connection Works, was formed in 2007, as a cultural center providing performances and educational events.
The organization’s resident ensemble consists of three of Brooklyn’s finest musicians; flautist Michel Gentile, pianist Daniel Kelly, and drummer Rob Garcia, who released a wonderful album titled “Works.” The trio, also called Works, has been making dynamic music together for six years, composing for and performing with various classical ensembles and backing guests like Joe Lovano, Joseph Jarman and Dave Liebman.
All three of these multidimensional musicians contributes excellent tunes to the album. Some of their finest compositions reflect the integration of art and literature into their musical visions. For instance, Gentile’s “Commodius Vicus,” is a canon of sorts, consisting of a melody interwoven at three different speeds. The title comes, appropriately, from James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake.”
With titles like “Hundertwasser,” referring to the Austrian abstract artist and philosopher and “Emanglons,” named for creatures in a fantasy by French writer/artist Henri Michaux, Kelly’s compositions are among the most evocative, colorful, and just plain tuneful on the album.
Garcia’s tune “Will” is the most percussive piece on the record and I’m not just referring to the drums. On this composition Kelly’s piano and Gentile’s flute are every bit as percussive as Garcia’s drums. Garcia is also responsible for “Spring Comes Around,” on which Gentile and Kelly literally seem to be playing to the beat of a different drummer for most of the tune. The bottom line: this is an album that goes way beyond superb musicianship, entering the realm of true innovation and experimentation.