Robin Goodie by Zhenya Strigalev’s Smiling Organizm
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2. Horizontal Appreciation
3. Sharp Night
5. Unlimited Source of Pleasure
7. Robin Goodie
9. Personal Opinion
10. Urgent Ballad
Official worldwide release date - February 2, 2015
Russian alto saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev returns with his acclaimed fusion-edged six-piece Smiling Organizm and their second album, Robin Goodie, his second release for Whirlwind Recordings. Following their much-praised debut – described as having “all the knife-edge momentum and skilled improvisatory abandon of its leader” by Jazzwise Magazine and “a real sense of a band in the making” by the Financial Times – Strigalev's band includes Blue Note-signed trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, double bassist Larry Grenadier (known for his work with Brad Mehldau and Pat Metheny), electric bassist Tim Lefebvre (sideman to Wayne Krantz and Michael Wollny), pianist Taylor Eigsti (whose many credits include Joshua Redman and Christian McBride) and high-profile drummer Eric Harland (whose recent work includes being a member of bassist Dave Holland’s band Prism, as well as work with Charles Lloyd and McCoy Tyner).
Smiling Organizm frequently subvert the standard sounds and roles of soloist and rhythm section, with Lefebvre’s subtle electronic effects and wiry guitar-like sounds layered between Grenadier’s emphatic swing, Eigsti’s lush yet angular harmonies and finely poised solos from Akinmusire and Strigalev. Harland meanwhile deftly maps out the rhythmic terrain, cleverly morphing simple grooves into multi-layered percussive landscapes. Robin Goodie was co-produced by Strigalev and Harland and is a powerful mix of the saxophonist’s many musical loves, the heart of which is high-octane, hard-swinging post bop. This is an ensemble work that showcases Strigalev’s razor-sharp instincts as composer and arranger, as well as the depth of his knowledge of a wide range of musical styles, from free improv to funky fusion, out-and-out swing and extended harmonically rich melodies.
St Petersburg-born Strigalev – who is known for his virtuosic alto sax work on both the London and New York jazz scenes – led the first US/European incarnation of the band on a sold-out tour across Europe, performing at prestigious venues such as Ronnie Scott’s in London; Bimhuis in Amsterdam; A-Trane in Berlin; Porgy & Bess in Vienna and the Sunset in Paris among many others. On these dates the band featured a revolving cast of world-class musicians such as pianist Liam Noble, bassists including ex-Miles Davis sideman Foley, Dany Noel, ex-Zawinul firebrand Linley Marthe, Michael Janisch and Matt Penman, leading drummers Jochen Rueckert and Gregory Hutchinson and trumpeter Alex Sipiagin.
If Smiling Organizm’s debut album introduced the world to Strigalev’s highly personal musical vision, then Robin Goodie finds the band stepping up a gear, increasingly comfortable as a unit, growing to become more than the sum of its considerably talented parts. Matching quirky humor with serious musical intent, delicate melodic hooks with heavyweight rhythmic muscle, this is a band and an album that leaves a vivid impression.
Here's what Zhenya has to say about his new record:
"The album Robin Goodie is in some way dedicated to England and my time here. I haven't read the adventures of Robin Hood, but I’ve seen the film! There’s a lot of nature (I love nature), humour, heroism, strong personalities, love, rebelliousness and of course some stupidity... 'Robin Goodie' is a mixture of Robin Hood and Boogie Woogie. I thought of the name (which is also the name of one of the tunes). The name came up on its own when I finished composing the tune and wanted to call it something random. However not all of the names of my tunes are random. Many of them are chosen based on the combination of letters or words, their sound reflecting the feeling of the tune. Sometimes I arrive at the name of the tune, letter by letter, in the same I compose the tune, note by note...
The sketches/outlines of several tunes from this album were written while I was practicing in the abandoned house next to the river where I was camping with my father in Russia… Lots of forest, nature and no people. The picture on the album cover was taken there. This album is actually my first where double bass and bass guitar are playing together. The main idea behind that was to combine straight ahead jazz with groove/fusion beats. Take the best of both (for me) and put them together. Thanks to the amazing musicians who made it possible for me to do that."
"At the root of it all is Strigalev, whose compositions are so strong that they live up to the talents of the musical titans who join him on this CD. This could be the kind of jazz album that has something for everyone, not out of some sense of catering to the crowd, but because the mood it creates is so universally appealing."
★★★★½ Downbeat Magazine
"Alto saxist Zhenya Strigalev juices up retro-minded postbop with cutting-edge grooves and madcap intensity on his excellent latest, Robin Goodie."
"The Russian has a refreshing indifference to what’s supposed to go with what in 21st-century jazz... he’s hired some of the classiest sidemen in the game... the music seems to draw out Akinmusire’s most impressionistic qualities, and Harland’s drumming is jaw-dropping throughout."
★★★★ The Guardian
"It can be fast and furious, tender and emotional and a whole lot of fun too, for the listener as well as the musicians. How many jazz recordings can you say that about these days?"
★★★★ + feature, Jazzwise Magazine
"One of the year's most interesting releases."
★★★★ UK Vibe
"Countless shades and colors, and new ones open up with each listening. Intoxicating!"
Jazz Thing Magazine
"It is straight jazz with grooves, beats and cheek. As a composer and arranger, Strigalev subverts the roles of soloist and rhythm section but it's his sax playing that lingers."
★★★★ Evening Standard
"Sometimes a CD seems to fall straight from the sky... Strigalev has generated a veritable personal style while surfing through the entire history of jazz... The only certainty is that this music has humor and is highly musical."
"Smiling Organizm is one of the most interesting formations in recent years."
"Together with his Smiling Organizm Group consisting of American musicians, some of even Blue Note fame, the exceptional musicians embark on a journey through the depths of jazz expressiveness and combines them with unpolished harmonies and quirky guitar runnings, creating a unique sound world of electronic effects, distorted noise and hectic swing styles. No simple feat, but exceedingly tasty!"
"Expands upon the promise exhibited by the first Smiling Organizm record. An album that is once again bursting with ideas."
★★★★ The Jazz Mann
"It's rare to find an ensemble recording that feels so well balanced—the considerable individual talents supporting the whole, rather than allowing one or two players to dominate."
★★★★ All About Jazz
"Where Strigalev’s compositions really stand out is in the blending of tonal color, which is in most cases strikingly attractive."
★★★★ The Arts Desk
"Everything is exuberantly, madly creative... All six musicians play with verve and power, the horn section parts being particularly fruity, and the album doesn’t really have any low points, just lots of surprises all the way to the end."
The Jazz Breakfast
"This is no stretch limousine of glossy, forgettable soft jazz, but rather an impassioned outpouring of the sax man’s quirky, raw, yet ultimately tuneful creations as composer and instrumentalist.... Crank it up."
"Goofiness falls away and he becomes a musician of total concentration, eyes closed, his surroundings entirely forgotten. With so many players, a rise in physical excitement tends to go with a loss of musical focus. With Strigalev, it’s the other way about; he actually builds excitement by homing in inexorably on a phrase, pursuing it through every possible variation. As for his compositions, they fuse together straight-ahead jazz melodiousness, pithy funk bass motifs and a delightful eccentricity."
★★★★ The Telegraph
"Robin Goodie is highly absorbing, and there is much magnificent music to savor."
"An album that has its rollercoaster qualities but surprising amounts of tenderness stitched in there too, Strigalev on a roll."
"Russian alto saxophonist is in serious company here, with monster electric bassist Tim Lefebvre and ex-Pat Metheny sideman Larry Grenadier on double bass.... there's rarely a dull moment."
"As composer and arranger, Strigalev subverts the roles of soloist and rhythm section but it's his sax playing that lingers."
★★★★ The Evening Standard