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Review by Scott Yanow: New York Standards Quartet - UnStandard


The New York Standards Quartet’s Unstandard, which features David Berkman and Tim Armacost, reinvents familiar standards.

Back in 2005, pianist David Berkman, saxophonist and flutist Tim Armacost, bassist Yosuke Inoue and drummer Gene Jackson came together to form the New York Standards Quartet. The idea behind the group was that since each of these musicians was involved in playing originals and more complex music, they wanted an outlet to play veteran standards. But rather than interpreting the familiar songs in very familiar ways, they wanted the freedom to alter, rebuild, reharmonize and reinvent the songs in their own way.

On Unstandard, the quartet comes up with fresh versions of such songs as “How High The Moon,” “All The Things You Are,” Benny Golson’s “Stablemates” (which they play in 7/4 time, as if the song were not difficult enough!), and a very spacey “But Beautiful.” There are three brief “Polka Beamlets” which are abstractions of “Polka Dots And Moonbeams.” “Solar” becomes “Lunar” while “Stella By Starlight” is reimagined as “They Ballet Girl Stirs (By Starlight).”

David Berkman and Tim Armacost take very inventive solos along the way while Yosuke Inoue and Gene Jackson are excellent in a mostly supportive role. The post bop reimaginings of swing and bop standards is quite successful, making familiar tunes sound brand new.

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