Noah Preminger – Some Other Time
(Newvelle Records NV003LP. LP review by Geoff Winston)
Noah Preminger’s Some Other Time, the third, exclusively vinyl release in Newvelle’s high-end subscription-only series more than lives up to expectations. It’s a gorgeous, ballad-focused album, following in the footsteps of Jack deJohnette’s exceptional Return (review) and Frank Kimbrough’s Meantime, combining musicianship of the highest order with benchmark-setting recording and production values.
New York-based Preminger, barely thirty years of age, sits so comfortably in the company of luminaries, bassist John Patitucci, drummer Billy Hart (due to appear at the EFG London Jazz Festival with Wayne Shorter and The Cookers, respectively) and go-to guitarist Ben Monder, who took the main guitar spot on David Bowie’s Blackstar album, also recorded in New York only a few months earlier than the Preminger quartet’s two days of sessions in June 2015.
The quartet chart a sophisticated, delightfully surprising journey through standards and popular song, mixing Ellington, Dylan, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bernstein with a sprinkling of latin. The scene is set by Monder’s hovering reverb on Strayhorn’s My Little Brown Book, its resonant chimes captured perfectly by Grammy Award-winning sound engineer Marc Uselli in a soundscape paralleling the haunting spirit of Blackstar before opening the door to Preminger’s powerful, sensitive phrasing with its hints of Sonny Rollins and Charles Lloyd.
It is the way the quartet works together, pooling their deeply rooted experience with a generous inclination to share the initiatives, triggering sequences of melody and counter-melody, investing the familiar with an extra dimension and blending changes of pace with consummate timing, that shapes the album and makes it so special.
Hart adds touches of magic with a natural restraint to maximise the percussive textures of his shimmering cymbals and sequences of fleet pattering that weave in and around Patitucci’s lustrous bass tones and Monder’s atmospheric washes and whispers which both support and quietly state and restate underlying melody, as in Preminger’s Semenzato, hinging on the interplay between sax and guitar.
There are no rules – sometimes it’s straight into a rich dialogue of improvisation with a nod to the core theme as with Ghost of a Chance, allowing Preminger’s soft, sumptuous tone to break through, whereas with Try A Little Tenderness the recognition is instant. Other times it’s a lone solo phrase that kicks off to define the melody, as Preminger does to mark out the title track, poignantly recalling its close associations with Bill Evans and Tony Bennett, before delivering the album’s definitive, virtuosic, extended solo. Boots of Spanish Leather’s one-off trio arrangement is also the only track to fade out, while others end with touches of light brilliance.
Some Other Time is a rich album in so many senses and repeated listening reveals much that goes on under the surface. The audio quality on the clear vinyl is stunning, achieving a clarity and resonant depth that delivers each instrument with warmth and tangible presence. Patitucci’s solo, for instance, in the reggae/bossa tinged Melancholia is captured with an exemplary ‘live’ feel that puts it right in the listening space.
There is another Bowie link, through Tracey K Smith’s energetic, reflective poem, Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?, voicing her ruminations on Bowie and mortality, from her 2011 collection, Life on Mars, reproduced on the inner sleeve as part of the beautifully designed Newvelle series packaging. Maybe she should have the last word on Some Other Time and its zestful musical quest – one line from her poem begins: ‘Time never stops, but does it end?’