Cloud Nine should easily make my year end best of list! Jacam Manricks musical stock is an arrow pointing straight up. Aside from Cloud Nine as his fourth release as a leader, Manricks is compositionally outpacing a great number of his contemporaries and when you toss in his well respected status as an educator then you have one of the brightest alto saxophone talents to come along in some time.
“Cloud Nine” which is also the title track of this release captures and reflects the vibrant jazz scene that is the Big Apple. Creativity is the key word here as the band swings hard and when you have Matt Wilson not just in the pocket but owning it then the stage is ready for a killer record and Manricks slays this tune. “Any Minute Now” is a personal favorite. A keen sense of melody and a semi-hybrid of Afro-Cuban rhythm with a more standard swing feel and again the lyrical intensity from Manricks on this track seals the deal. “Alibis And Lullabies” features a guest shot by trumpet phenom David Weiss who takes a bit more command than usual on this gorgeous ballad dedicated to Manricks grandmother who recently passed on. “Loaf” features some great guitar work from the often under appreciated Adam Rogers. This is actually two tunes in one with a slight re harm that adds flavor without mangling a good melody. The first part of the tune is “Long Ago (and Far Away) and the second part of ”I’m Old Fashioned.” Manricks creates a new tune but doing a riff on each. The only non original is a rarely performed ( by jazz artists) tune from Antonio Carlos Jobim and a perfect fit for this most formidable quintet. I would be remiss if I did not mention the outstanding organ work by the great Sam Yahel.
While this is of course Manricks release there is that delightful working band feel that can and in this case does take a very good release up to a great release in short order. Lyrically driven and with the ability to shift harmonics on the fly there is variety, texture and soul to one of the better releases you may find this year. One bit of irony at least for me is that Manricks is from Australia and I have yet to take on an Australian artist that was not top notch – Manricks keeps the streak going! Taste is of course subjective but it will show up again on my year end best of list!
Tracks: Cloud Nine; Ystava Sa Lapsien; Any Minute Now; Take The Five Train; Cry; Alibis and Lullabies; Serene Pilgrimage; Loaf; Luiza.
Personnel: Jacam Manricks: alto saxophone; David Weiss: trumpet (6); Adam Rogers: guitar; Sam Yahel: organ; Matt Wilson: drums.
5 Stars. Literally flawless with every aspect of the release on point!