Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A twee grows in Brooklyn: Dan Kaufman plays warming-climate jazz from a city expecting a new shoreline

Scenes of the city: Dan Kaufman visits familiar places.
On "Familiar Places" (Red Piano Records), Dan Kaufman's gently impelled small-group jazz moves toward some assertiveness and sass at the end of the set on "farmington," a churning bluesy piece set to a kind of New Orleans shuffle beat.

You hang on to any indication that this bandleader has anything that needs to be said, and the certainty of that wavers in the course of these eight original tunes.

Keyboardist Kaufman  heads a group that's essentially a quintet (piano-bass-drums-guitar-saxophone) with percussionist Keita Ogawa adding color now and then. The musicians work well together; individually, they sometimes even sound three-dimensional.

You have to be patient with the first two tunes, which have the anodyne quality of what you can pick up in the background at Starbucks while you're scrawling Merry Christmas on your red cup. You'll perk up as Kaufman puts out some rollicking, down-home piano on "crosscheck," and exotic coloring enlivens the proceedings on the piece that follows — "dansesong" (but why spell "dance" the French way, and why are all the titles lowercase?)

As for Sam Sadigursky's tenor, it tends to emerge with the funk-free Nordic reserve of Jan Garbarek, especially on "dew eye" (which is typical of the Windham-Hill-style titles Kaufman favors).

I loved Matt Clohesy's bass solo on "falling petals." I also took favorable note of Johnathan Blake's flavorful drumming throughout the title piece,  and there are scattered displays of personality and atmosphere from guitarist Gilad Hekselman.

But too much of this competently produced and engineered CD fell upon my ears as, if I may borrow the title of the first track, mere "windshadow."