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Published:September 27th, 2013 10:52 EST
Jim Beard Jazz's King of the Underrated

Jim Beard Jazz's King of the Underrated

By SOP newswire2

You might safely call Jim Beard jazz`s king of the underrated. His wit, wisdom and sure skills as keyboardist, producer and composer have been tapped by the likes of Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter, Mike Stern and John McLaughlin. Beard has been misrepresented (or imcompletely branded) as a "new fusion" musician, and his solo albums from the `90s - rich and witty marvels all - have been ritually overlooked. All of which brings us to his wondrous Revolutions, a painterly circus of his music in expanded circumstances, with the aid of arranger Vince Mendoza and the Metropole Big Band and Orchestra.

Much more than just a Euro side project, the album illustrates how Beard`s music expands beautifully in the bigger-better band format, how Beard`s and Mendoza`s concepts and sense of color mesh, and also offers a retrospective overview of choice tunes from Beard`s songbook.

Fine soloing abounds along the way, including Beard`s eloquent turns on piano and cameos by saxophonist Bill Evans, trumpeter Bob Malach and guitarist Jon Herrington, but the power of the written (and arranged) note is largely responsible for the wow factor.

We get a hint of tricks (and treats) to come in the very first two measures of the album, as Beard sets up "Holiday for Pete & Gladys" with a New Orleans-y solo piano riff - in the wrong key. Beard`s writing, sympathetically textured and fashioned in Mendoza`s charts, moves from the stuff of "Lost at the Carnival" and "Princess" - both hip, festive and lightly spiced with kitsch - to the Wayne Shorter-tinged lyricism of "In All Her Finery" and the sophisticated triple-meter sway of "Holodeck Waltz." If a "fusion" ethos is at work, it`s all for the aesthetic good, and is approached by Beard with rare degrees of humor and creative subversion.

Pop ideas and slyly catchy melodies squirm around the jazz campus grounds, like some jazzier kinfolk of Steely Dan`s jazzed-up pop tack, but in the other direction. Let the reappraisal begin.

- Josef Woodard --JazzTimes - Nov. 2009