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Marty EhrlichFeatured Artist: Marty Ehrlich

Year: 2005

Record Label: Palmetto

Style: Progressive

Musicians: M.E. (alto sax, clarinet), Howard Johnson (bass clarinet, baritone sax, tuba), James Weidman (piano, melodica), Greg Cohen (bass), Allison Miller (drums)


While I’ve always admired Marty Ehrlich’s musicianship, some of his albums have seemed a little…aloof, technically swell but somehow distant, more to admire than to enjoy on a repeat basis. Until, as you may’ve surmised, now. News On The Rail is one of the years nicest surprises – it’s intellectually provocative, yet with plenty of heart. It has great subtlety, but doesn’t forget to swing (and smile). “Enough Enough” is the kick-off. It is a jolly [Duke] Ellingtonian swinger where the sextet sounds like a whole jazz orchestra. (Actual Dukal connection: James Zollar was in the Duke’s band.) The rather ascetic (yet full-bodied) “Light In The Morning” and the whimsically sardonic “Seeker’s Delight” reflect the influence of Jimmy Giuffre (post-1960, that is) and Third Stream music (jazz + classical/notated composition = 3rd Stream), as well as Ehrlich’s classical. The knotty ballet-grace and quirky agitation of “Dance #2” could be an unissued 60s track from Andrew Hill. Throughout, one can happily discern the influence of (or is it in tribute to?) the late Julius Hemphill in Ehrlich’s alto – not an imitation, mind you, but in the way Ehrlich’s alto is loaded with Hank Crawford/Cannonball Adderley blues-juice without doing typical blues licks or structure. There are some “out” moments, but they’re woven into a definite, viable context, not an every-organism-for-itself wank-out. All the players acquit themselves more-than-admirably, they’ve got so much that there’s no need to show-off, and best of all is Rail is mos def an ensemble music – later for that I’ll solo, then you, etc. Hyperbole Alert: News is everything a jazz disc should be. (“Should be” = fascinating, entertaining, witty, brainy, swinging, chance-taking, creative flair, engaging melodies and harmonies, no muss, no fuss, no waxy yellow buildup.)


1. Enough Enough
2. Hear You Say
3. Light in the Morning (Many Thousand Gone),
4. News on the Rail
5. Dance No. 2
6. Erica
7. Seeker’s Delight
8. Keeper of the Flame (in memory of Sam Furnace)

Reviewed by: Mark Keresman


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