BY JONATHAN LEVITT
One of the joys of reviewing music is you sometimes come across a band or musician that is so striking, that it just knocks you on your feet. Boston’s Nextgen Jazz Quartet consists of both current and former NEC (New England Conservatory) students who set the musical world on fire with their debut album. They are helmed by prodigy sax player Ye Huang, who has toured Asia with Mike Stern, and is a talent so startling that the world is his for the taking.
That’s not to say the other players aren’t killer either. On the album we are also introduced to pianist Gabriel Feldman, bassist Chris Mondak, and drummer (and NEC graduate) Mario Fabrizio. These guys are all uber-talented players that have the chops of musicians 30 years their senior.
Diving into the album, I was blown away by the tune “Slavic Blules,” its lyrical, sexy and provides the perfect entry into a record filled with numerous highlights. Here, the band shows a dynamism that is completely their own. “Hibernation” is a gem as well, written by Feldman, the track recalls the lyricism of Lyle Mays and builds into moments of micro crescendos that had me tapping my feet and hoping it wouldn’t end. “Always Smiling” is a wonderful homage of sorts that channels the likes of Sidewinder-era Lee Morgan and Dexter Gordon’s Our Man in Paris.
“On a Cloudy Day” is a cool breeze of a song where Ye, with some stellar backing, shows how he is able to infuse the proceedings with both emotion and grit. With “A Brief Dalliance” it became clear to me that Nextgen are risk takers. This song has some curious moments that aren’t always successful, but still shows that the palate of ideas they are working from could lead them in more experimental directions should they choose that on future albums. Closing track “Ask For More” is a musical tour-de-force arranged into sections that are funky and show how this well-oiled machine is ready to take on the jazz world.
This finely-honed debut is a bold statement percolating with promise that hopefully will propel these four young lads onto even greater musical accomplishments. A showcase in the Big Apple might not hurt their case either!
DOWNLOAD: “Slavic Blues” “Hibernation” “Always Smiling” “Ask For More” “A Brief Dalliance”