Jim Cutler Quartet
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Jim Cutler Quartet

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For the past four years, the Jim Cutler Quartet has been performing throughout the Pacific Northwest, and recently it released its second CD primarily of original music written by members of the group. A regular presence on the Seattle jazz scene, Cutler has remained active not only by appearing with his quartet as the opportunities present themselves, but also by arranging for and leading the Jim Cutler Jazz Orchestra, which appears regularly at Tula's Restaurant and Nightclub, and by working with touring artists such as The Manhattan Transfer and Dave Weckl.
No doubt, the Jim Cutler Quartet makes the venues come alive wherever they play, for tunes like "Second and Blanchard," with its hard drive and aggressive improvisation, command attention from the start. And then, those first choruses are merely preludes to what's to follow as the quartet builds layer upon layer of intensity, Brian Olendorf's piano sparkling, Chris Monroe's drums rumbling, as the quartet seamlessly moves from 6/8 to four to 6/8 again. Bookending the CD with fast-tempo straight-ahead numbers, "Get In The Game," though slightly slower and more relaxed than "Second and Blanchard," possesses similar qualities of propulsiveness and adlibbing over strangely familiar chord progressions.

But the members of the quartet include some ballads and slower numbers as well. Bassist Philip Demaree's "The Schweetie" is a little waltz, direct in its appeal to the listener's sensibilities as Cutler plays the melody of whole-measure tones. Sure enough, the quiet nature of the song, never shouting when a whisper will do, serves as the occasion for Demaree's lilting solos in the midst of the first and final choruses. "Norma Jeanne," the next track, follows with the same urgent, plaintive, understated approach, though with a beguine feel, before the quartet picks up the tempo for a double-time meter throughout the majority of the piece. The accumulating impression as one listens to For Real is that this is a great that take interest in a great variety of music and that is technically accomplished enough to perform whatever they wish.

Compositionally, sometimes Cutler borrows from standards for the melodic suggestions that form the songs of For Real. Fair enough, "Thumper" is improvisation over the changes of a medium-tempo blues. The title song, though, is a variation in a stop-time arrangement on the changes of "What Is This Thing Called Love?" "Get In The Game" likewise disguises the melody of "I Love You" with beating-around-the-bush of creating another theme from the song's modulations. "Second And Blanchard" seems to gain some of its inspiration from the feel and chord progressions of "Milestones," though with a slight twist for resolving the chorus. Of course, many of the bop classics originated from playing over well-known standards as well.

For Real showcases a saxophone quartet that obtains obvious enjoyment from the music it plays and communicates that fun and feeling to their listeners in a fine recording. - JazzReview.com


For its second outing, the Jim Cutler Quartet delivers twelve tracks, of which all but one are original compositions mostly from Cutler, with two from pianist Brian Olendorf and one from bassist Philip Demaree. The personnel for this Seattle-area group is the same as on its 2002 debut, JCQ.

The music presented on For Real is straight down the middle of the fairway. Cutler is a good melody player and his tenor styling is lyrically in the Scott Hamilton mode. The solo time taken by Cutler and largely Olendorf is relatively brief, but there is plenty of time to appreciate their talent on this 68 minute album. Cutler appears most often on tenor sax and does get a soprano reading on "Last Boat to Freedom." The two ballads, "The Schweetie" and "Twilight Dawned," are attractive, as is the midtempo groove "Another New Beginning." "Mookie's Secret Revenge" is a funky "Song For My Father"-type riff.

So why is it that the one standard, "You Go To My Head," is the best tune on the album? There is nothing wrong with the eleven originals here, but, for variety's sake, another pair of familiar tunes or jazz standards would have been welcome and would have lifted this session up another notch. This combo plays well, and I have no doubts that it could appeal to a wider national audience. - All About Jazz


Back in the day, Seattle jazz fans could make the Jackson Street scene to catch, for instance, Ray Charles teaching the ropes to a young Quincy Jones. That was my father's era, and his stories of nights at the Black & Tan and other legendary clubs have inspired many twinges of jealousy in me over the years. Happily, Seattle continues to be (or has become again) the site of a lively jazz scene, and the proof is on discs like this debut effort from the Jim Cutler Quartet.
Saxophonist Cutler is a regular on the Seattle club circuit, not only leading the quartet but playing with the big bands Roadside Attraction and The Jazz Police, among other groups. JCQ is his first recorded outing as a leader, and if it gets the kind of attention it deserves, he may have little time left for other pursuits, though. Joined by pianist Brian Olendorf, bassist Philip Demaree and drummer Chris Monroe, the album offers seven originals by Cutler, one by Demaree and four thoughtful covers. It's a solid straight-ahead effort, generally, seasoned with some Latin, fusion and bop undertones.

As a leader, Cutler is generous with solo space for his compatriots, and they all rise to the occasion capably, with Demaree being a notable standout in that regard. Playing standup for the most part, Demaree also shows an adept touch on the fretless electric instrument on Cutler's "Keep Off The Grass," emphasizing the tunes fusion edges without overwhelming its solid jazz underpinnings.

Demaree's composition, "Waiting," is also noteworthy, as Cutler sets his tenor aside in favor of soprano. If the though of a soprano saxophone ballad makes you cringe a bit, you've been listening to the wrong sax players. In this case, the instrument captures the romance of the tune without becoming cloying, and is set off well by Demaree's own superb solo turn.

Among the covers, I'm especially taken by the quartet's version of Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring," but, in fact, there's not a single track that doesn't hold my interest and earn my appreciation. This is exactly the kind of album I'd put on to demonstrate what good, straight ahead jazz can and should be. To top it all off, these guys gig right here in my own home town. My dad would be jealous. - JazzReview.com


Discography

For Real
2003 - Pony Boy Records/Jamco Music

"No doubt, the Jim Cutler Quartet makes the venues come alive wherever they play... For Real showcases a saxophone quartet that obtains obvious enjoyment from the music it plays and communicates that fun and feeling to their listeners in a fine recording." - Don Williamson, JazzReview.com

"...one of the sharpest new releases I've heard in quite some time." - Christopher DeLaurenti, The Stranger (Seattle, WA)

"I was glad to add such a cool CD to our rotation." - Dan Turner, Program Director, KJLU Radio (Jefferson City, MO)

JCQ – The Jim Cutler Quartet
2002 - Jamco Music

"…there's not a single track that doesn't hold my interest and earn my appreciation." - Shaun Dale, JazzReview.com

"This is jazz with a capital J!" - Mike Smith, SkyJazz Internet Radio
Both releases have received and are still getting both national and intertational radio play, and are featured on jazz program podcasts.

Track Listings
For Real
1. Second and Blanchard (J. Cutler)
2. For Real (J. Cutler)
3. Another New Beginning (J. Cutler)
4. Last Boat to Freedom (B. Olendorf)
5. The Schweetie (P. Demaree)
6. Norma Jeanne (J. Cutler)
7. You Go to My Head (J.F. Coots, H. Gillespie)
8. Mookie’s Secret Revenge (B. Olendorf)
9. Alan Weight Speaking (J. Cutler)
10. Twilight Dawned (J. Cutler)
11. Thumper (J. Cutler)
12. Get in the Game (J. Cutler)

JCQ - The Jim Cutler Quartet
1. The Emperor (J. Cutler)
2. Awakenings (J. Cutler)
3. Just Friends (J. Klenner & S. Lewis)
4. Prasek’s Lament (J. Cutler)
5. Keep off the Grass (J. Cutler)
6. Picking Things Up (J. Cutler)
7. Ceora (L. Morgan)
8. Joy Spring (C. Brown)
9. Autumn Mist (J. Cutler)
10. Waiting (P. Demaree)
11. Throw Me a Bone (J. Cutler)

Photos

Bio

Jim's style is best described as straight ahead, mainstream acoustic jazz. He's been influenced by many jazz greats; names you'd expect to hear like John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis, and also more contemporary artists like Lew Tabakin and Phil Woods. Matt Collar of All Music Guide states that Jim's style is "…reminiscent of '60s-era Sonny Rollins" while Michael Gladstone of All About Jazz says "…his tenor styling is lyrically in the Scott Hamilton mode." What's certain is that Jim has created his own style and sound that can be appreciated on many levels.

Brian Olendorf, a versatile pianist and composer, composed and had performed a ballet at the age of 18, and has been playing professionally for over 30 years in many musical styles and situations, including jazz, classical, shows and rock settings.

Phil Demaree has been playing bass for over 25 years. A native of Boulder, Co, he attended the University of Northern Colorado under Gene Aitken. He spent several years touring the US and Canada, and now plays and sings regularly in several Seattle area groups. Recently, Phil has begun arranging choral pieces for the Seattle Choral Company, including "Santa Through the Swing Years," which was performed for the first time in SCC's Christmas 2004 concert.

Chris Monroe has performed with a wide variety of artists and has performed with the national tours of City of Angels, Victor/Victoria, Titanic, Ragtime and Saturday Night Fever. He toured the Midwest and Northwest with the New York touring production of Porgy and Bess and performed on Broadway with Do Jump Extremely Physical Theater. A veteran of many local jazz groups and theater shows, Chris can be heard on numerous TV and radio commercials, and the film soundtracks of the Newton Boys, Dennis the Menace strikes again and Barney's Big Adventure.

Each of the members of the Jim Cutler Quartet have performed separately with a wide range of nationally recognized artists, including Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick, Joe Williams, Diane Schur, and Bob Hope.