Greg Cordez 'Last Things Last' album

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Posted on 22nd July 2017

Greg Cordez

Last Things Last album



Greg Cordez’s second album has been a long time coming, but it is so worth the wait! The album is entitled Last Things Last and it is the kind of album that propels an artist into the major leagues. 

Greg’s compositions have always been highly playable; more than that even, they inspire musicians to play at their very best, even better than best at times. Despite his citations of Bad Plus, Sparklehorse and others as influences, Charles Mingus is his core and Mingus compositions had the same effect on players too. Certainly the harmonies are appealing to players, but perhaps it is also the inherent sense of melody in Cordez’ writing that inspires. 

The horn riffs, which have that exciting sound of post-bop sax-and-trumpet harmony, possess an underlying melodicism and are much more subtly employed than most of the historic post-bop charts. Somehow, in the voicings, and the addition of guitar too, this quintet sounds like a much larger band.

But this is jazz, and it is not all about composition and arranging; it is about the playing, and here is where it really kicks through to the next level. This is a marvellous, an exceptional, band. Michael Blake’s saxes, Kirk Knuffke’s cornet, Steve Cardenas’ guitar and special mention for Allison Miller’s drumming, all bring this project to a special, exalted place. I should include Greg’s bass, which doesn’t solo much, but his foray back to electric really pays off in the ensemble sound.

The album begins with Checkov’s Gun, one of the most exciting tracks. After a short acapella horns intro, Miler’s drums tumble into an irresistible groove that powers the song; you could listen to her all night. Knuffke enters with a spectacular solo, buttery and fluid, challenging the range of the cornet and the parameters of the song with stunning technique. Wow. Blake comes in with angular, note-bending soprano before the two horns return with the riff, catchy and melodic. All through the song Cardenas plays a fugue-like,vaguely Jamaican rhythmic counterpoint that adds immeasurably to Miller’s groove. He comps particularly creatively throughout.

The second song, Cherry V Des Moines, is a rocker, and once again Allison Miller’s drums are thrilling. This one is for Michael Blake, though, who develops a long solo from halting, behind the beat phrases to tone-shredding crescendo.

Figlock is also a crescendo of a piece and a vehicle for Steve Cardenas, whose guitar tone is just beautiful as he plays against the constantly rising trumpet-led horn arrangement. If Michael Blake’s deconstructive sax is an angular foil for Kirk Knuffke’s fluid cornet, Cardenas as a soloist is a brother to Knuffke. 

The title tune, Last Things Last, is a gorgeous slow ballad. Cardenas leads it in appropriately beautifully, Blake bends it and twists it, then Knuffke brings it to a lovely close. It deserves to be the title tune.

The album continues through four more songs exploring Greg Cordez’ visions of beauty interpreted by these wonderful musicians. It’s an interestingly sequenced album, starting with the exciting uptempo pieces, then relaxing into various shades of allure, and it works a treat. Because it covers all bases, composition, arrangement, playing (and recording – marvellous!), I have found myself listening to Last Things Last over and over, like a favourite album of years past. Truly a breakthrough.

Charley Dunlap

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