The abstract Roualtian cover art, gratis Danae Syrrou, to Mitch Haupers' Invisible Cities gives a good visual indication of what's to come sonically. The sub-title to the CD is 'Original Jazz & Chamber Music', and that's indeed what's taking place here. This is the guitarist / composer / teacher's debut—at 55 years of age!—but the extreme maturity of the entire collection, including the multi-movement centerpiece, the Four Minor Love Songs Suite, tells you why that's so. You can't write this level of material at 25 or 30, not unless you're a Mozart type (and there's never been a whole lot of those running around, as you may have already noticed). Every cut is completely engrossing, plotted as chapters within a classic piece of literature, a conversational interplay with the reader/listener rather than a parade of chops and explosive whatnots.
And, man, is a goodly portion of Cities ever blue! It's always late afternoon or a rain-slick neon night in these lightly populated or distantly seen cities and parklands, back rooms and antechambers, the emphasis on atmospherics. The title cut, though, brings in a much more upbeat milieu than is the case with other cuts, but the view is from above, tail lights flashing across a bay bridge as the sun dips to the horizon, signaling a change from one shift of Nature to another. The CD bases in a quintet (Haupers, Peter Erskine, Bob Mintzer, Alan Pasqua, and Darek Oles) but also features variously configured arrays of winds and horns as well as other sessioneers, all arranged and conducted by Ayn Inserto. And when Mintzer finally brings the bass clarinet to the fore…man o man, sweet and rich as mead wine!
Jimmy Haslip produced and played on this classy outing, but don't mistake any part of Cities for his pyrotechnics in past or recent fusion releases such as that trio membership with Tohpati Hutomo and Chad Wackerman on the fiery Tribal Dance (here). That'd be a mistake, as Haupers tends very dominantly, in his own words, 'to go with the more relaxed, calm, reflective approach', the first movement of Four Minor Love Songs illustrating this vividly, sounding as though a Clare Fischer piece (here) in an olde English drawing room. The same, though, is true of his guitar figurations throughout the album: never intrusive, always colorative, at times almost shy, but finally stepping into a gentle spotlight in The Farmer and the Monarch.
Brandon Fields, Bob McChesney, Russ Ferrante, and Eugene Friesen also turn up in various niches but, save for all the great solos and Peter Erskine's usual ridiculously good, not to mention highly judicious, work, nothing here was composed for virtuosos per se, so the song duties and improv sections are tightly compartmentalized, which only makes the showcase all the more appetizing and sophisticated. It's exceedingly difficult to blend the two worlds together that way, but Haupers succeeds splendidly, leaving nothing out. I warn again, though: come to this disc with your thinking cap on 'cause there are dimensions within dimensions here, and to miss any part of it would be a damn shame.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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