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The New Cool: Alex Monfort's Modern Swing

Photo by Arthur Wollenweber
Jazz talent and handsome, too? Comme très français!";

French pianist Alex Monfort honors his jazz heroes on the new trio release Introspection. Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea are all on the list of legends who inspire him, but Monfort makes his own statements here. This is modern jazz piano that brings the legacy of jazz into the 21st Century.

The album's a strictly acoustic affair, and might stand out to The New Cool's fans of Hammond organ, Fender rhodes and the world of synths - which you'll hear plenty of this week. The modern edge on Introspection is a subtle one.

Known to their fans as A.M.T., which must confuse visiting Americans looking to find a cash machine, the Alex Monfort Trio adds Rafael Aguila Artega's tenor sax and Jorge Vistel's trumpet to "Mc Coltrane". A clever nod to pianist McCoy Tyner's work with the sax icon, it's modern jazz in the same mold as Seattle's post-bop groups led by Thomas Marriott, Matt Jorgensen and others.

Monfort swings hard on "Mulgrew's Mood", for the late great Jazz Messengers pianist Mulgrew Miller. Bass and drums from Samuel F'hima and Tom Peyron push hard toward the envelope, but not too much.

"Body Without Soul" hints at the well-known jazz standard, but dances away with the style of Chick Corea's always-fresh piano fashion. Softly pulsing from underneath is Peyron's brush work, while F'hima takes a nice solo which recalls bassist Gary Peacock of the Jarrett Trio.

The lone ballad, "Prelude to Someone" is similarly straight ahead and tender. Another showcase for F'hima's bass, Monfort's piano work is almost minimalist. More Brad Mehldau than Ethan Iverson in it's modern feeling, melody and beauty take the lead here.

Finally, the lead off title song - yep, we end with the beginning - "Introspection" veers as close to modern innovators (The Bad Plus, E.S.T.) as A.M.T. dares. Swing is still the thing, in a Bill Evans/Keith Jarrett mode with emphasis on the hooky melody. The composition's interesting rhythmic structure recalls the post bop energy of the early 60s, but bends and snakes further and further like a puzzle that keeps adding pieces.

This is a straight ahead jazz album, don't be surprised to hear the A.M.T. mixed into your blend of Miles, Brubeck, Ella and the rest on KNKX. And remember that you don't need to stray too far from the jazz tradition to develop a uniquely modern sound. It all has a home on The New Cool.

Also on the show this week, new music from Robert Glasper's all-star collective R+R=Now, funky electric bassmen Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten (he's at Nectar Friday!), fascinating French singer Sarah Lancman, and Kamasi Washington's bonus LP The Choice - because Heaven and Earth's 4 slabs of wax wasn't enough!

Wait, there's more: we're also giving away a pair of tickets on our Facebook page to (KNKX presents) McTuff with Skerik and his Syncopated Taint Horns at Nectar Lounge next Saturday night - DJ Abe-to-the-B-son opens the show, see you there!!

The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5p, hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.

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