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ClassicsOnline Home » LOS ANGELES JAZZ QUARTET: Conversation Piece
The San Diego Union-Tribune
"One of the finest working bands on the scene."
By Greg Burk
"Here's what makes you forget everything else and listen to these guys: They sound like one person speaking directly to you. Not for nothing is their Naxos Jazz CD from last year called Conversation Piece. In their version of "Round Midnight," even the intense presence of Thelonious Monk slides into the background behind a network of seemingly simple individual choices. Chuck Manning's tenor sax, just this side of grave, puts a melody in every bar. Larry Koonse's gentle guitar appreggios, interspersed with rhythm-conscious pauses, frame the composition with 3-D clarity. Darek Oleszkiewicz's sparse bass notes are like hand gestures drawing attention to a phrase or offering a shade of ambiguity. And Kevin Tullius' light brushes and cymbals are the unifying factor, the spirit of the collective. This is very easy music to hear, but goes just as deep as you're inclined to follow; you'd never guess that Oleszkiewicz's "Blues For Old Friends" was a 23-bar number, or that Koonse's "All That Waltz" melded 3/4 time with a 4/4 feel, unless you deliberately directed your attention to such technicalities. There are few bigger-name jazz artists making music as complete as LAJQ's, and there's nobody more involving."
About the music
As the title implies, a "conversation" piece is something intimate, spoken closely, not a loud speech or a boisterous shout. With this release, the LAJQ has crafted the musical equivalent. Larry Koonse’s plaintive guitar and Chuck Manning’s saxophone speak in calm measured tones, while Darek "Oles" Oleszkiewicz’s bass and drummer Kevin Tullius provide meaningful support. Make no mistake, it’s not sentimental whimpering music or maudlin ballads. This is clear-headed music the way Bill Evans' reflective music was. The lyricism of the late pianist is a big influence on this recording and with LAJQ member original tunes like the 15-bar (!?!) "Blues For Old Friends" and the unhesitant ode "Tribute", that respect is very evident.
About the LAJQ
Formed over five years ago, the group works mostly in the Los Angeles area, although they toured France in 1998. Each member also plays in a number of other contexts with many other artists. Koone and Oleszkiewicz even teach at the California Institue of the Arts. This is their second release for Naxos Jazz, following Look To The East in 1997.
Second-generation guitarist Koonse’s resume includes singers Cleo Laine and Mel Torme; saxophonist Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh and Bob Sheppard; clarinetist Eddie Daniels; bassist Charlie Haden and Herbie Lewis; drummer Billy Higgins, and harmonica master Toots Thielemanns. He has also soloed with the L.A. Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Pops and other symphonies. Saxophonist Manning performs with many ensembles in the Los Angeles are including drummer Carl Burnett and trumpeter Bobby Bradford. Manning has also recorded many albums as both leader and sideman.
Bassist Darek "Oles" has supported flautist James Newton, trumpeter Marcus Printup and Brian Lynch, saxophonist Charles Lloyd, pianist Brad Mehldau and Billy Childs. Drummer Kevin Tullius plays regularly with the Bulgarian-born pianist Milcho Leviev, and has backed saxman Eric Marienthal, bassist Art Davis and John Pattitucci.
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LOS ANGELES JAZZ QUARTET: Conversation Piece