Andy McWain Quartet
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Andy McWain Quartet


Band Jazz Avant-garde


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The best kept secret in music


"Splendid E-zine <>"

Can an avant jazz album be both challenging and memorably tuneful? Starfish suggests that it can. Joined by tenor saxophonist Assif Tsahar, acoustic bassist Noah Jarrett and drummer Chris Poudrier, jazz pianist Andy McWain presents ten originals that will remain firmly entrenched in your mind long after the disc leaves your changer. Alternately, you may want to keep it cued up for weeks at a time.

On tunes such as "Periodic Stasis Amid Torrent", the quartet divides the musical dialogue in a very even fashion. Tsahar and McWain each take solos of a questing and probing nature, but Jarrett’s bass lines prove to be an equal part of the rhetoric. He subtly spins a contrapuntal web in the background, referencing both sax and piano lines, simultaneously supportive and inquisitive.

Tsahar and McWain receive co-composer credit for "Duo Interlude", one of the album's finest pieces. Tsahar’s keening melodies might at first seem at odds with the basso passages and textural harmonies that McWain plays at the opening, but each of their lines begins to take on the characteristics of the other —- McWain adds angular melodies and punctilious jabs while Tsahar offsets his upper register hijinks with low, resonant tones.

A composer of concert music as well as jazz, McWain brings his broad palette of musical experiences to bear here. Some of the extended compositions resemble the character of suites. "Toxins (Parts I-III)", a 12-and-a-half minute tone poem, is presented as such. Other tunes, like "Thorn Tea Jar" and "Pure Iris Chord", are presented here in two manifestations, but the related pieces are interspersed with other tracks, not delivered one after the other.

"Wind Can May", on the other hand, is bumptious fun; McWain uses Eastern-influenced scales while Poudrier and Tsahar supply a loping groove. Closer "Another Dynamic Starfish Precursor" opens with a long pizzicato bass introduction from Jarrett; his glides are keenly imitated by Tsahar and McWain. Poudrier starts into a steady rhythm on several occasions, but each time the gesture is aborted, denied by the continued angular repartee of the other three members. An alternation of sepulchral low notes and squeaks emanates from the tenor sax, while the piano traverses some of the disc's most complicated harmonic terrain.

Although this is ostensibly the pianist’s show, McWain does not grandstand, seeming to prefer the role of collaborator. What Andy McWain avoids in flash he more than makes up for with poignantly incisive solos and overwhelming harmonic variety when comping. Starfish is well worth seeking out, and the McWain Quartet is a group to keep an ear out for.
-- Christian Carey - Christian Carey


Andy McWain Quartet: STARFISH (Fuller Street Music FSM 8854-2, 2002)

Airplay in the U.S.A, Canada, and Greece on:
* WFMU 91.1 FM, Jersey City, NJ (with relay WHXD 90.1 FM, Hudson Valley); "Stochastic Hit Parade"; Bethany Ryker, host
* WPKN 89.5 FM, Bridgeport, CT; "Radio Nothing"; Rod Richardson, host
* KFOX 93.5 FM, Redondo Beach, CA; ""; Fred Jung, music director
* CKUT 90.3 FM, Montreal, Quebec, CANADA
* KGNU 88.5 FM, Boulder, CO; (with 93.7 FM, Ward, CO, and 89.1 FM, Ft. Collins, CO) "Jazz & Beyond"; Karl Eggert, host; Glenn Arndt, host; Russell Bertolette, host
* WSMU 91.1 FM, North Dartmouth, MA; "Music for Sunday"; Ron Teachman, host
* WCBN 88.3 FM, Ann Arbor, MI; Joslyn Lane, music director [Jazz Top 20, Mar 2003]
* WERU 89.9 FM, Blue Hill, ME; 102.9 FM Bangor, ME; "The New School"; Wade Kohlchek, host
* AAJ-Internet Radio -, "Jazz Excursion"; John Sutton, host
* WREK 91.1 FM, Atlanta, GA
* CFUV 101.9 FM, Victoria, BC, CANADA
* WRUV 90.1 FM, Burlington, VT
* CKLN 88.1 FM, Toronto, CANADA
* KZSU 90.1 FM, Stanford, CA; "Umami Jazz Program"; Ben, host; "Memory Select"; Wade, host [Jazz Top 30, Mar-Apr 2003]
* KOSMOS 90 FM, Hermoupolis, Syros Island, GREECE; "Jazz on 90FM"; Vangelis Aragiannis, producer
* WNUR 89.3 FM, Evanston,IL "Chicago's Jazz Experiment", (Jazz Top 50, Feb 2003)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Boston-born pianist/composer Andy McWain fuses
his improvisations with elements from post-bop jazz, contemporary concert music, and modern creative music. McWain has performed and/or recorded with such diverse artists as Tiger Okoshi, Assif Tsahar, John Dirac, Bruce Gertz, Dino Govoni, Jim Robitaille, Royal Hartigan, Albey Balgochian, Hafez Modirzadeh, Hilary Noble, Dave Zinno, Semenya McCord, David Bindman, Bobby Greene, David Bindman, the Artie Shaw Orchestra (led by Dick Johnson), and the Zen Bastards, among others. McWain earned his master’s degree in composition from New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he studied with composer Lee Hyla. McWain has also studied improvisation with Bobby Greene, Anders Bostrom, and Charlie Banacos, and composition with Michael Gandolfi and Zhou Long. He has received grants from the American Music Center, the American Composers Forum and Meet the Composer-New England, and he participated in artist residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (FL), Yaddo Colony (NY), and the Akiyoshidai International Art Village (Japan).