Noah Preminger Exhibits Cutting-Edge Take on the Blues at Old Lyme's Side Door | Connecticut Public Radio
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Noah Preminger Exhibits Cutting-Edge Take on the Blues at Old Lyme's Side Door

Dec 9, 2015

"Over the past few years virtually the only music I've listened to has been Delta blues."
Noah Preminger

Inspired by the age-old Delta blues, Noah Preminger and his delta force quartet create a 21st century re-imagining of two soul-drenched songs by legendary blues singer Bukka White on the young tenor saxophonist's dynamic, new album, Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar, a jazz bistro in Greenwich Village.

Celebrating the release of his latest recording project, Preminger, who grew up in Canton and is an alumnus of the noted jazz program at West Hartford's Hall High School, leads his quartet on Thursday, December 10, at 8:00 pm at Old Lyme's Side Door Jazz Club. Preminger's prime-time players are trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian Froman.

With his signature style -- one rooted in expressiveness, authority, authenticity and boldness -- Preminger and his colleagues, using free jazz tools and improvisational strategies, dig new turf for two famously earthy songs by White, "Parchman Farm Blues" and "Fixin' to Die Blues."

Bukka White
Credit Creative Commons

The CD's two freewheeling pieces represent Preminger's fresh takes on such fearless saxophone explorers as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins as seen through the prism of the blues embodied so soulfully by White (1909-1977). The legendary Mississippi bluesman and soulmeister is the muse and launching pad for the Brooklyn-based saxophonist's latest venture that revels in being a free-minded, hard-swinging, contemporary vision of the timeless truths of the blues.

What you hear is Preminger's mix of the blues (his alpha) and the abstract truth (his omega), represented by the extended improvisations that he and his kindred spirit, trumpeter Jason Palmer, weave spontaneously in a live setting. White's two blues anthems provide the framework and the canvas for the two frontline players' abstract sonic landscapes that stretch out over the CD's two tracks, each running 32 minutes apiece.

On "Parchman Farm Blues," Cass and Froman open the track by igniting a sizzling ambience before Preminger and Palmer enter with a mournful, almost prayerful kind of Ornette Coleman/Don Cherry-like dialogue before harvesting a bumper crop of freely flowing ideas with their long, challenging, back-to-back solos.

On "Fixin' to Die Blues," Cass's resonant, a cappella string bass intro generates a feeling of gravitas, accented by more of Froman's sizzling cymbals before Preminger and Palmer take the piece in new directions, stretching out with no constraints of time and space placed on their creativity and intensity.

Ian Froman
Credit ianfroman.com

More than just fishing for random ideas in their well-stocked streams of consciousness, the two horn players pull off the existential challenge as both an individual and shared tour de force. Obviously inspired by the live setting, Preminger even engages in smart musical conversations with himself. And Palmer, his alter ego, sometimes interjects a playful spirit into this jet-fueled Delta journey with his higher register notes and free jazz revision of Dizzy Gillespie's uninhibited, brassy bebop-rooted sense of swagger and wit.

Kim Cass
Credit kimcass.bandcamp.com/releases

Preminger proudly calls his quartet a "true unit." His definition is proven not just by his simpatico alliance with Palmer's probing trumpet explorations, but also by the pivotal contributions by Cass on bass and the industrial strength and tensile sense of time forged by Froman on drums. Froman's rhythmic energy and support never diminish from beginning to end, no matter how far Preminger and Palmer boldly go. Wherever their improvisations sail -- even in the deepest, most dangerous, turbulent  waters -- the drummer keeps Noah's ark on an even keel.

Using his keen contemporary sensibility and open-ended approach, Preminger sets out to emulate the emotional depth that he hears and feels so deeply in White's impassioned blues.

"Over the past few years," he said, "virtually the only music I've listened to has been Delta blues -- I've been obsessed with it. I love all the honesty and emotion in the music, the soulfulness of the phrasing. Just the sound of Bukka White's voice moves me."

"Those guys like him, they really meant what they were saying -- and that is rare today."

White, he added, is a kind of aesthetic and psychological motivator for the band every time it steps out on stage for its next live performance.

"My goal for this band," he said, "is to be direct and hard-hitting in that spirit. I want us to be a force the second we hit the stage, that we're planting our feet and telling our story."

By releasing the CD on his own, Preminger has created a document of his evolving artistry, which has been chronicled in his earlier CDs, beginning in 2007 with his debut album, Dry Bridge Road, released after he graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music. Among other honors, it was named Debut Album of the Year by the Village Voice Critics Poll.

An independent spirit -- exemplified by this boxing enthusiast's pugilistic title for his knockout 2013 release called Haymaker -- he answers here to no one but himself about how or what things should be recorded. Even the venue choice seems just right for these recordings made last June and July and released in October.

Noah Preminger Band
Credit Jimmy Katz

With this latest project, Preminger has fused a kaleidoscopic, historic range of music -- everything from ancient Delta blues to Coleman's ultra-modern, iconoclastic  classic album, Free Jazz, plus open-ended elements of such tenor titans as Rollins and Coltrane -- into something all his own. It marks the latest giant step in a  career whose future beckons with potential for creating not only the new, but also the synthesizing of the old and the new by using alchemy formulas no one ever thought of before.

Besides tapping into the CD's visionary interpretations of White, Preminger and his band might well work their modern magic by rhapsodizing on earthy classics by Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, along with other new views and hues on blues gurus.

The Side Door is at 85 Lyme Street, Old Lyme. Doors open at 7:00 pm, performance at 8:00 pm. Come early, relax and have a drink while absorbing the cozy shoreline club's intimate atmosphere. Information: thesidedoorjazz.com and (860) 434-0886.

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