“‘THE JAZZ EXPRESSION’ IS A SENSATIONAL ALBUM BY THE CHRISTOPHER ALPIAR QUARTET. THEY PROVIDE YOU JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG, SHOWING A WHOLE UNTAPPED SOURCE OF JAZZ AND BLUES. CHRISTOPHER AND HIS SAXOPHONE BLOW NOTHING BUT RHYTHMIC SOUNDS.”
-- JOHN SHELTON IVANY ()
Translation by Isaac Meyer:
"Here is a rough translation done on not nearly enough coffee. I doubt it's perfect, but it should give you an idea:
An album from the quartet of Christopher Alpiar, who has been a saxophonist for 25 years. He has recorded as a side-member for hundreds of albums and participated in tours from Europe to South America, and is a veteran of genres including pop, rock, latin and jazz. This album is free-form jazz strongly influenced by John Coltrane. The pianist Pete Rende is strongly reminiscent of McCoy Tyner, and the drummer Bob Meyer reminds one of Elvin Jones.
The first track, "Welcome (Peace for the World)," has a leading section that brings to mind the "A Love Supreme", but the main section is an expectation-defying performance. From the second recording on, the style begins to closely resemble the powerful tenor of Coltrane. The polysyllabic phrasing of "Jupiter, Deep Space" calls Coltrane to mind. Moreover, in "Trane's Pain," the various elements of the group, from Meyer's poly-rhythmic playing to Alpiar's tenor howl, enable the group to come together and produce a powerful performance which leaves a lasting impression. An excellent work."
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Thank You. Hyodo.
-- Hyodo (The Jazz Page)
As the first cut, Welcome (Peace for the Earth), to Chris Alpiar's The Jazz Expression opened up, I was inflowing heavy-duty Pharaoh Sanders vibes, and indeed the feeling remained throughout the disc, as Alpiar's steeped in the classic jazz tradition of Sanders, Shepp, Coltrane, Konitz, Coleman, and the passle of horns gentz who grabbed listeners' frontal lobes and reconfigured them…to no one's regret. Music like this is supposed to break through consensus norms and transform things, and Expression has no problems whatsoever in doing that. Though Welcome opens rather serenely, it's not long before Alpiar starts leaping into the skies, and the real experience begins.Welcome (Peace for the World) (15:51)Jupiter, Deep Space (7:11)Utsukushi (11:01)Trane's Pain (19:07)Snowy (5:32)
Not that this is an all-blow-out session, far from it-Pete Rende's piano work is far more sedate but just as engrossing and angular-but Alpiar dominates the disc and the group when he goes to it. He can't help it, there's an inner world present that needs to escape and dance, remonstrate, and expostulate for the listener. However, since the songs are looooong, the guy gives plenty of room to Bob Meyer (drums) and Matt Pavolka (bass) as well, and so Welcome is not merely a song but a mural of four talented hipcats creating a jungle of jazz. It slows, mellows, and grooves at the close…only to have Jupiter, Deep Space set the pulse to racing again.
If you dug Charles Gayle's Look Up (here), and that is one knock-out disc, Alpiar moves the free modality back over into a lot more framed exposition, more-hmm, how shall I put this?-mannered, I suppose, as the intensity is nowhere near Gayle's while the heart and narrative definitely are. One thing's certain, it sure as hell won't attract any of the Kenny G / Herb Alpert crowd. There's even a bit of the ol' Gato in Chris when calming out a bit, but, trust me, once he revs up into his glorious racket, you're not going to worry too much about what is and what is not genteel, just so long as he keeps playing his brains out. Don't even think about just putting this on and doing your taxes, 'cause it ain't that kind of music, even despite the mellifluous lyrical passages. Alpiar and some of his more recent reeds kinsmen are dragging the sax back into a serious spotlight after the axe had been spending far too much time over the last couple of decades in commercial sugary La La Land.
All compositions by Christopher Alpiar.
-- Mark S. Tucker (the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange)
Let me begin by admitting that I have never been much of a fan of what is often called free jazz-the more innovative and complex it got, the more I found myself floundering in its experimental cacophonies. The freer it got, the less I understood what was going on. So when the recently released album from the Christopher Alpiar Quartet, The Jazz Expression, arrived in the mail, and the publicity information described it as a "free-jazz, Coltrane inspired group of original music," I was in no great rush to crank it into the CD player. While Coltrane is certainly an artist to be reckoned with, too many Coltrane-inspired musicians don't manage to do their inspiration the justice he deserves. It's like taking the name in vain.
Not so with the Chistopher Alpiar Quartet. These guys do Coltrane proud. And if this is free jazz (and it clearly is), the quartet is well on the way to changing at least this listener's mind about it. Although the album's five tracks had been recorded back in 1995, with the band members having gone their separate ways, the The Jazz Expression was only released last November. Sometimes you have to wait for a good thing.
Alpiar, who plays tenor sax, composed all of the album's pieces. Pete Rende has a sensitive touch on the piano. Matt Pavolka is a classy bassist, and Bob Meyer contributes some stalwart work on the drums. They had played together in New York through the '90s and they have a definite feel for one another.
The longest piece on the album is a 19-minute homage to the master himself: "Trane's Pain." It gives the band an extended opportunity for some dynamic exploration over a range of rhythmic variations and ideas. "Utsukushi" and "Snowy," which ends the album, are softer and sweeter with just enough experimentation to keep from being saccharine. Indeed, for those of us with free jazz phobia, these may be the highlights of the album. "Utsukushi," it seems, is named after the Japanese for beautiful, utsukushii. It is an appropriate title. "Welcome (Peace for the World)," which opens the album, and especially "Jupiter, Deep Space" are perhaps the more avant garde tracks on the album. Coltrane's influence, clear throughout the album, runs throughout, but is perhaps most clearly felt here.
Alpiar, now based in Atlanta, has also put together a new group called 800 Giants, described on his website as a "Brazilian, Americana/Roots, Free-jazz fusion instrumental band mixing a unique blend of concepts and styles to create an exquisite pallete [sic] of sounds." The band's debut album is scheduled for release this spring. If it is as good as The Jazz Expression, it's something to look forward to. I imagine if a CD arrives in the mail, I won't be letting it sit around unheard for any length of time.
-- Jack Goodstein (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
If you didn't know it, you might think the opening track on The Jazz Expression (Behip) is something straight from the John Coltrane or Eric Dolphy vaults. Instead, it's saxophonist Christopher Alpiar taking on the reed with the 15 minute "Welcome (Pleace For The Earth)" with his quartet (Bob Meyer on drums; Matt Pavolka on bass; Pete Rende on piano), and the music is consistent in its intensity until the end of the song and throughout the album.
The incredible vibe established with the first song continues with "Jupiter, Deep Space" and the massive 19 minute "Trane's Pain", which may be Alpiar attempting to tap into the consciousness or thoughts going into Coltrane's mind in his last few years in order to find the perfect note and himself. What works great is when Alpiar stops playing and all you hear are the other musicians getting off of one another, enjoying what they're creating in their own space, paving another entry way or two for Alpiar to display his musicianship once more, at times playing with the notion of saying "no, not yet, give us a few more bars."
The Jazz Expression is the perfect title for an album that shows the beauty and grace of jazz, and as long as there are musicians like them in the world, jazz will continue to thrive and stay alive.
-- THIS IS BOOK'S MUSIC (THIS IS BOOK'S MUSIC)
The Christopher Alpiar Quartet - The Jazz Expression [1995/2012] - Behip, 58:38 ***1/2:
(Chris Alpiar - tenor saxophone, co-producer; Pete Rende - piano; Matt Pavolka - bass; Bob Meyer - drums)
The Christopher Alpiar Quartet's self-released album, The Jazz Expression, is a time capsule. The hour-long outing features five Alpiar originals, and captures the band as it was in 1995, but the music recalls the glory days of late-period John Coltrane, to a lesser extent Ornette Coleman, and in one instance, Joe Henderson. Tenor saxophonist Alpiar, pianist Pete Rende, bassist Matt Pavolka and drummer Bob Meyer had a regular gig at the New York City jazz venue, The Angry Squire (also known as The Squire), and during that time the quartet went into a studio to lay down some unreleased tracks. Fast-forward to the present, when Alpiar rediscovered DAT tapes from that session, got some help to restore them, and issued the music via the Behip label.
The foursome open with "Welcome (Peace for the World)," a lengthy number (just a shade under 16 minutes) which evokes Coltrane's famed 1965 quartet, with bassist Jimmy Garrison, pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones. Alpiar grabs the initial front line with an extended solo which echoes Coltrane's inimitable sense of melody and his rhythmically abstract pulse. While the rhythm section builds a central rhythm, Alpiar stays above the beat, with modulations and passionate single lines. Rende assumes the second solo, providing swift and sweeping piano lines. While Rende is not as fervent as Tyner could be, he showcases his resourcefulness. The tune slows as Pavolka secures the spotlight: while the others sit out for a spell, Pavolka displays his tender side. Meyer takes the final improvisational position, and then the band returns to the main refrain for the levitating conclusion. The seven-minute "Jupiter, Deep Space" continues to conjure Coltrane's spirit (it even paraphrases a Coltrane title). This is explorative and searching, and occasionally traverses into atonality. Like Coltrane, Alpiar uses uninhibited improvisations, where he sometimes expresses a brief off-the-cuff theme. The Coltrane legacy is even more pronounced on the epic "Trane's Pain," a 19-minute tour-de-force, which moves from calm moments to sections of abundant intensity, although "Trane's Pain" may be a chore for listeners who don't generally enjoy protracted pieces. There are numerous tempo changes, themes are established (Coltrane fans may recognize some), are then dropped, are restated; and new ones added and then discarded. There are intricate lines and dexterous solos from each musician. There is rhythmic and harmonic tension and interplay. And throughout, Alpiar demonstrates a volcanic volatile technique which proves how much he reveres the foundation laid by Coltrane.
The quartet discloses a capacity for ballads on the quietly stirring, 11-minute "Utsukushi," which can be translated from Japanese as "beautiful"; "pretty"; "lovely"; or "charming." This is where Alpiar unveils his Henderson adoration. Although there are moments when the four artists provide a shimmering low-brewed aggression, for the most part this reveals the band's warmer aspects, with sensitive bass and sax. Although this cut is a bit overlong, it has a melody which could or should make "Utsukushi" an enduring composition, ripe for others to reinterpret. The concluding, coolly elegant "Snowy" also embraces the foursome's gentle perspective, with meditative contributions from Rende and Alpiar.
- Welcome (Peace for the World)
- Jupiter, Deep Space
- Trane's Pain
-- Doug Simpson (Audiophole Audition)
If you are a classic Coltrane quartet fan, and you've worn those recordings out by playing them so many times, here's a new take, a follow-through on the style by the Christopher Alpiar Quartet. The Jazz Expression (Behip) takes its cue from the loping, hard-swing modality of the mid-to-mid-late quartet and extends it in a sincere and well-played set.
The material is all-original in the Trane mode. Christopher Alpiar writes the music and plays the tenor with the old fire. Pete Rande is on piano in the McCoy-and-beyond zone. Ma[tt] Pavolka walks with some authority on bass. Bob Meyer gets an Elvin-inspired leverage on drums, swinging very well and kicking the band forward.
It's just different and creative enough that it's more than a cloning. And the band has enough personality to refresh the zone and give it new life. So cheers and good listening!
-- Grego Applegate Edwards (Gapplegate Music Review)