The back cover states “virtuosity and taste are abounding with these guys”, and that’s one way of describing this new album by The Bickel/Marks Group (Zoho). Bickle (piano) and Marks (acoustic bass) are a good team, so add to this team Marco Marcinko (drums), Matt Vashlishan, (alto sax), and special guest Dave Liebman (soprano and tenor saxophones) and you have a stew ready for the diggin’.
The intensity of their playing is only matched by their arrangements, and what I found unique about this album is that they’ll go in and out of playing something close to smooth jazz, but are never settled to stay in one place at any given time. With smooth jazz, it tends to be on automatic for the duration. On the lighter moments of this album, one can hear it drifting towards a corner, only for everyone to jump in at the same time and start going crazy. It’s a light intensity, which in jazz can be twice as deadly, especially in “The Jazz Behemoth”, “Do I Love You because You Are Beautiful” (a Rodgers/Hammerstein composition that is executed brilliantly here), and “Home”, which is as comforting as the title.
Production on this by Bickle and Marks is really good too, it’s good when a producer can do their own work, but better when they can benefit from each other by hearing what the other may not, resulting in a product that sounds great all around.
(The album will be released on May 11th.)