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Music

Phil Markowitz: Catalysis

Tim J. Nelson

Conversational, yet adventurous, allowing the listener to explore along with the musicians as they enter exciting new territory.


Phil Markowitz

Catalysis

Label: Sunnyside
US Release Date: 2008-07-15
UK Release Date: Available as import
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With Catalysis, jazz piano veteran Phil Markowitz offers more mesmerizing, lively compositions for the dedicated jazz-music enthusiast. His haunting style and signature captivates one’s soul and, if music can soothe and heal, takes one’s spirit on a beautiful, restorative journey.

Catalysis is a mix of jazz styles that build upon Markowitz’s experience with Chet Baker, Toots Thielemans, and other legendary jazz musicians. His confidence and rare voice are evident on thoughtful compositions like “Undercurrents”, which seesaws between tempos and time changes, Markowitz’s hands shaping the music he hears. Recorded in 2006 at BiCoastal Music in New York, the production team, headed by engineer Hal Winer and producer Kevin Davis, captured a balanced, live-performance energy. Markowitz is front and center in his trio, driving his original compositions forward. As a listener, it’s exciting to hear these veterans converse with ease, clarity, and vitality.

Yet, his colleagues Jay Anderson (bass) and Adam Nussbaum (drums) complement and complete the pianist’s “designs,” as he calls them. Markowitz states in the liner notes: “ I strove to fashion open environments where we all could contribute on a freer basis.” He’s successful.

“M.D.A.”, a lively, rambling journey, sets this improvisational tone and is the shortest of all eight tracks, timing in at 4:32. “For the Sake Of…” is a slower-paced exploration, often mournful and reflective. Nussbaum’s up-tempo, energetic opening to “Breach” sets its challenging pace and has all three members adding furious riffs or well-placed complement to Markowitz’s chord progressions – his fingers may have needed therapy after this stellar recording.

Many of these pieces are conversational, yet adventurous, allowing the listener to explore along with the musicians as they enter exciting new territory. What is evident from the entire recording is that Markowitz is a master jazz composer, offering some of the best original compositions in modern times. Of course, Bill Evans knew this in the ’70s when he recorded Markowitz’s “Sno’ Peas.”

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