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New Journey - Greg Fishman: CD Review

New Journey - Greg Fishman

Saxophone – Greg Fishman

Piano – Dennis Luxion

Bass – Eric Hochberg

Drums – Phil Gratteau

With New Journey, saxophonist Greg Fishman has created his finest recording to date. The all-original effort opens with “Champagne Jane,” a catchy bluesy-bop piece with descending phrases and interesting changes that for the most part augur the remaining tracks on the album.

Fishman recently noted at Jazz Showcase that Track 2, “Dahlia,” was titled in honor of a fan from Texas (thankfully, not named Blanche) who revealed her good musical sensibilities by expressing enthusiasm for the song. A memorable tune, with doubled-up melody lines and Frishberg-like intervals and modulations, “Dahlia” is among New Journey’s strongest offerings. Were this the right decade, these first two efforts would have all the earmarks of “hit” songs and could easily accommodate lyrics.

Shifting away from women’s names, “Floating Down,” is a venture into programmed music, with the band musically recreating the sensation of––watch for it––floating downward. Fishman’s apropos modulations, along with his penchant for Getz and Coltrane, are on full display. Nods go out to bassist Eric Hochberg and pianist Dennis Luxion for their evocative solos. On the title track, “New Journey,” Fishman turns again to descending modulations, somehow finding new ways to present them.

Question: How is it possible that in the long history of bop jazz no one before Fishman has come up with the title “Boppertunity”? The song lives up to its name, and would be right at home on Birth of the Cool (complete with a Max Roach-worthy drum solo by Phil Gratteau), except that the overall recording mix seems compressed and does not bring out the full instrumental dynamics of this outstanding quartet.

If Stan Getz had ever performed a soundtrack for a sexy 1960s international spy thriller, it would have sounded much like New Journey’s penultimate tune, “The Ninth Degree.” Even the title sounds like a John le Carré seductive intrigue. Concluding the disc, “Constellations” is an interesting, free-flowing, straight-ahead swinger that somewhat reprises the title tune.

A feather in Fishman’s cap for assembling a cast that is completely compatible and in synch with one another, capturing the musical feel and amalgam of mid-century Brazilian and bebop jazz. Though the material is fresh and commands one’s attention, Greg Fishman’s New Journey actually feels like an old journey––one we have taken before and one that is as comfortable as a pair of worn-in shoes.

––Gregory Maddox

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