Friday, November 16, 2007

Local Dialect

Local Dialect
By Jay Azzolina

Just North of Yonkers, Hastings-on-Hudson is a Westchester village easily accessible to the City via commuter rail. While it may never eclipse celebrated jazz communities like Harlem and the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, at various times in its history Hastings-on-Hudson has been home to many jazz legends, including Michael Brecker, Ralph Sutton, and Fats Waller. It has also been home to guitarist Jay Azzolina and his musical comrades, Tim Ries and John Patitucci, who join Azzolina on his latest release: Local Dialect.

While Azzolina is probably best known for his association with Spyro Gyra, Dialect is a varied, but largely straight ahead session, as established by the opener, “Friends of Friends,” with its intriguing melody and complex rhythms. Benefiting from Rolling Stones sideman and jazz interpreter Tim Ries’s horn arrangement, it is a great vehicle for some smoldering solos by Azzolina and Ries. The easy groover “Three Ladies” follows in one of Dialect’s many shifts of tone. Again Azzolina shows a facility for attractive melodies and tasteful solo statements, accented by Ries’s flute and some short, but attractive brass passages.

Larry Goldings joins the group (minus the horns) for three soul-jazz oriented organ combo numbers. “Mind Your Mind,” performed as a trio with drummer Greg Hutchinson, is the bluesiest in its vibe, whereas “Between Thoughts” and the closer “Exit Strategy” are more up-tempo swingers, giving plenty of space to Azzolina and Goldings to have their say.

The Latin flavored “Angel’s Dance” is a dramatic change a pace, featuring Azzolina’s guitar and vocalizing accompanied only by the percussion of Cyro Baptista. It’s a standout track that really adds another sonic dimension to the release.

“Smile For Me” might be the most pleasing for his Spyro fans, combining a funky backbeat, with keyboards, flute, and soprano sax. The other tune employing keyboards is the darker, more challenging “Acceptance,” propelled by Janko R.’s insistent drum program.

Throughout its shifts in personnel, Dialect enjoys the rock-solid rhythmic support of Patitucci and Hutchinson. With their assistance and that of his other guests, Azzolina makes some eloquent statements, both as a composer and as a soloist.

(Note: Azzolina will be playing in the Citywith Ries and Hutchinson at the Cutting Room on Nov. 27th, at 9:30.)