Jazzer Noah Preminger Channels Bluesman Bukka White on 'Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar' (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt on Dec 20, 2015 09:42 AM EST
Noah Preminger Noah Preminger Channels Mississippi Delta Bluesman Bukka White on 'Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar' (Photo : courtesy Ann Braithwaite)

For his fourth CD, recorded live in a Greenwich Village, NY bar, saxophonist Noah Preminger, 29,the Connecticut wonder, has taken trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian Froman into the studio to record two half-hour jammy trips of the music of Mississippi bluesman Bukka White [1907-1977]. The two 1940 Bukka classics-"Parchman Farm Blues" and "Fixin' To Die Blues"-have been covered (one or the other) by Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Led Zeppelin, Mose Allison, The Blues Project, Charlie Daniels Band, Johnny Winter, Hot Tuna, Blue Cheer, Cactus, David Clayton-Thomas, Bobbie Gentry, Rick Derringer, Georgie Fame, John Mayall and Kingston Trio.

Yet none of those aforementioned artists has stretched out the songs with no lyrics for an extended improvisation that basically re-imagines and reconfigures the inherent soul within these woebegone blues. Despite their length, Preminger's quartet never once repeats itself, despite no rehearsal, and during intense group improvisation. It's as if Preminger has channeled the majesty of Bukka's innermost protests through a blender of Ornette Coleman or even John Coltrane.

All four musicians get to strut their stuff in a series of solos that blend into each while still keeping the main theme intact. In taking these traditional common-time songs into the stratosphere, the music winds up mightily swinging, hardly at all straying into bebop, yet coming up with variations on its 4/4 time signature in new, expressive and creative ways.

Preminger's last CD, Haymaker (2013), included a Dave Matthews cover and a tune from the Broadway show Annie. He's an inventive musician who doesn't try to impress with his runs so much as play in service to the song. On Before the Rain (2011) and Dry Bridge Road (2008), he concentrated on originals. And that's the thing about Preminger: you just never know what he's going to do. Word has it his next project is a ballad album on the vinyl-only Newvelle Records with Ben Monder, John Patitucci and Billy Hart.

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TagsGreenwich Village, Noah Preminger, REVIEW, Bukka White

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