Rob Faulkner cornet, Felipe Salles tenor,
Dave Santoro bass, Claire Arenius drums
Jay Messer Quintet Liner Notes for Sly Exit
Jazz can be defined as improvised music that relies on structure. One might also point out jazz performance is, most often, by individuals in groups. Jazz tradition has figured in the evolution of the “modern” jazz quintet configuration of two horns and three rhythm (one brass, one reed, bass, drums, and piano, or less often, guitar.)
Jay Messer, the leader, main composer, and arranger of the quintet is a guitarist fluent in the hard and post-bop tradition. He solos and comps beautifully. The group’s individuals come together as a cohesive unit. It’s a working band in the tradition of quintets led by Cannonball Adderly, Miles Davis, Horace Silver, and Art Blakey. This quintet is comprised of long time associates flugelhornist Rob Faulkner, saxophone and flutes Paul Lieberman, and bassist Dave Santoro, and newer musical friend drummer Hamir Atwal.
The quintet’s material was all written or selected by Jay Messer to highlight the band members’ great musical gifts. Jay’s original tunes are accessible to even a casual listener and carry a deeper message to the aficionado. This largely unedited collection of complete takes in the studio, presented in a performance sequence, draws the listener into the best seat in the house.
Fine solos abound in each track, and the arrangements subtly utilize a variety of combinations. The opener, Step Lightly, a wonderful tune by Benny Golson with interludes and a “shout” section, features the tenor sax and flugelhorn combination. Estate becomes orchestral when tenor sax gives way to alto flute. The blend of flugelhorn and the deeper toned flute create an exquisite sound, dark and full. Dreamline, with tenor sax, is classic bop contrafax. The blend of horns and guitar suggests a larger dimension. Summertime recasts the oft-played Gershwin standard in waltz time. Weepin’ is played at a burning tempo that seems very fast…until you hear the closing track. The rarely heard song I Keep Coming Back to Joe’s deserves to be better recognized and this instrumental version should certainly help. Monk’s Ride and Concentration are built on established chord changes, in the process becoming new tunes with familiar undertones. The closer, Sly Exit is really fast. The band tears it up with precision, but not at the expense of feeling.
This recording of a strong individual and group effort will pass the test of time and add greatly to the historic quintet tradition it so exemplifies. Listen…and enjoy!
Bill Goodwin, drummer and producer of The Phil Woods Quintet himself for 37 years.
Art in Paradise: Perfect Happenstance, The Valley Advocate
Valley guitarist Jay Messer plays a mean guitar, solo and with his quintet.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
By James Heflin
Walk into Carmelina's in Hadley any Friday night, and you're likely to find the restaurant's usual trappings: scurrying servers, a bartender standing in front of gleaming bottles, and loads of diners queueing up for alfredo in the low-lit cool. But for a while, there's been an interesting addition: where once the sounds of jazz piano filled the air, you can now catch the strains of a solo jazz guitarist.
For musicians, restaurant gigs can be a beautiful thing: people are generally there to eat and chat, and listening is a passive addition to the proceedings. It's often a relaxed atmosphere in which to try new things without the pressure of intense scrutiny. Jay Messer, however, is the kind of solo performer whose talents can easily withstand that sort of scrutiny, whether he's playing tunes new or old.
There is little in the musical world that's more demanding than solo jazz guitar. The guitar is an incredibly versatile instrument, of course, but when it comes to solo playing, there are major challenges, no matter the approach. That's why there simply aren't that many guitarists who make a living as solo instrumentalists. Many of the ones who do such work play within the strictly prefigured confines of classical, or embrace exuberantly rhythmic styles like flamenco.
Solo jazz guitar usually demands the convergence of several things: rhythm, melody, and improvisation. It's rather like juggling five objects—a lot of people do fine with three, but few manage the paradoxical combo of speedy forethought and meditative detachment required to keep five in the air. The same kind of mental state is required of a good solo jazz guitarist. As Mitch Seidman wrote in liner notes for Jay Messer, "Not only is your musical train of thought and instrumental ability completely exposed, but there is also no interplay with other instruments to help 'keep the ball in the air.' ... Everything you play is obvious."
The perils are many: start a tune with a walking bass line coupled with simultaneous attention to melody on the top strings, and all might be fine until you get to the part of the tune that demands an improvised solo. Do you abandon the bass line in favor of high-note runs? Do you play a few notes at once, trying to split the difference and keep listeners reminded of the chord progression while carrying on some sense of melody? Such questions just keep arriving, and navigating them while reliably entertaining listeners is not for the faint of heart.
Messer employs all sorts of tricks of the trade, from playing chords whose top notes carry a melody to walking bass notes a la jazz guitar great Joe Pass. His transitions from single note leads to fast-moving chords sound effortless, like a tune was simply meant to go that way. When he punctuates a melody with a well-placed chord or two, it sounds like perfect happenstance.
Such things are the product of many years of playing, and Messer, who makes a living with his guitar, has been at it since the '70s, solo and otherwise. On the heels of a recent solo recording called Concentration, Messer is releasing a new disc, Sly Exit, with a full quintet that includes Rob Faulkner (flugelhorn), Paul Lieberman (tenor sax and more), Dave Santoro (bass) and Hamir Atwal (drums). His Gibson archtop playing shines, offering a deftly played center amid the quintet's driving tones.
The large cities of each coast are reputed to attract the highest level of jazz musicians, and it seems to be an endorsement of a player’s ability and seriousness to mention that one lives or has lived there. Granted, I can understand that perception when considering all of the great, well-known musicians found in those cities, along with the enormous competition. But I also know and encounter truly world-class, seasoned musicians in very unlikely geographic locations, often far from the metropolitan areas reputed to have the best. Just a few guitarist “for instances” would include my friends Fred Fried, Lennie Stelos, the late Jack Fragomeni, and Jay Messer, who currently hails from a small town in Western Massachusetts.
I can speak from experience when I say that solo guitar is a most challenging way to perform, making “Concentration” a most appropriate CD title. Not only is your musical train of thought and instrumental ability completely exposed, but there also is no interplay with other instruments to help “keep the ball in the air,” and the song’s momentum can never be allowed to waver. Everything you play is obvious. Jay has certainly met this challenge with imagination, sensitivity, and mastery. His choice of songs is excellent, and he expressed them with depth and beauty, including the wonderful Thelonious Monk ballad “Ruby, My Dear,” “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” by Charles Mingus, and “Detour Ahead” by Lou Carter, Herb Ellis, and John Frigo. A real surprise was hearing “The Birds and the Bees” by the late guitarist Attila Zoller played as a waltz. It reminded me that I first encountered Jay some years ago when we performed together at a birthday tribute concert for Attila, who was a mentor to both of us. I was impressed with him then, but in this recording Jay revealed to me yet another facet of his musicianship. I would like to add that he recorded solely on an acoustic archtop guitar, which added a woody, warm, and natural resonance to the music.
So I agree that you find many of the best jazz musicians residing in the large cities of both coasts. But, thanks to Jay Messer, not all of them.
(Boston-based jazz guitarist Mitch Seidman has performed throughout the U.S. and overseas, and his performances and recordings have included numerous renowned jazz musicians. He is also a Professor at Berklee College of Music and was a contributing editor to 20th Century Guitar Magazine).
Jay Messer Solo Guitar Liner Notes for Concentration
Jay's recordings on the Shejaz label, a solo CD "Sly Entrance" and the Jay Messer Quintet CD "Bayside" have received rave reviews from newspapers and international magazines including Jazz Improv and Cadence Magazine. "Sly Entrance" features timeless standards in original solo guitar arrangements from "Fats" Waller to Monk, and also two compositions of his own. "Bayside" features Jay and his quintet performing his compositions and arrangements ranging from the cool-jazz/bebop style of his originals to up tempo sambas and slow, sultry Latin grooves from contemporary jazz and Brazilian composers.
"Concentration" Jay's 2nd solo guitar recording, released in November, 2010 features another 10 years of solo guitar performing featuring compositions of Monk, Mingus, Zoller, Ellis and an original.
"Sly Exit" is the latest Quintet CD recorded in November, 2010 and released in August, 2011 is the groups current work, All original arrangements, Bop, Ballads, some Latin grooves and five originals.
To listen to music samples from The Jay Messer Quintet and view photos click on this link https://myspace.com/jazzjaymesser
To listen to four solo guitar samples with photos and live quintet clips go to youtube.com.
Jay can be viewed in concert in a duo with Tom McClung performing 45 Degree Angle on youtube. just click this link. Recorded 06/20/03 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOU5l0W1T7o
Jay can be heard at many Western New England jazz venues including The Federal, EB's, Castle Street Cafe, and many others. For Jay's upcoming performances go to Jay's Schedule page.
Jay performs every Thursday at 6pm "SOLO JAZZ GUITAR" at 'E.B.'s Restaurant in Agawam MA. Where he also started a youth jazz workshop, "THE YOUTH JAZZ CONNECTION". 385 Walnut Street EXT. (413) 789-3525. www.ebsrestaurants.com
Also solo jazz guitar alternating Fridays and Saturdays at The Federal, 135 cooper Street, Agawam MA. (413)789-1267. www.thefederalrestaurant.com
See "Jay's schedule page.
Jay Messer has recorded with the Marion Brown Quintet in NYC for Venus records and with The Paradise City Jazz Band, The Dagnello Quintet and John Norris as well as recordings for Jazz Improv Magazine. He has performed with many Jazz artists including Herb Ellis, Eddy Jones, Tom McClung, Ed Byrne, Steve McCraven, Benny Waters, Eddy Lock, among others. His recordings, a solo guitar CD “Sly Entrance” (2000) and with The Jay Messer Quintet a CD “Bayside” (2001) have received rave reviews from newspapers and international magazines including Jazz Improv and Cadence magazine. Jay’s most recent recordings are; his 2nd solo guitar CD titled “Concentration” released in October, 2010, and a new quintet CD titled “Sly EXIT’ released in August of 2011. Jay relocated to Santa Rosa California in the summer of 2016. He continues to compose, arrange, teach jazz guitar and perform locally and in Paris. www.jaymesser.com
Jay Messer performs high quality Jazz with a repertoire from the 1920’s forward to contemporary Jazz composers. His repertoire spans “Fats”Waller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, the Great American Song Book, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, & Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Jay Messer and his quintet, is Jazz at once readily accessible and subtly nuanced. It’s also simply beautiful”.
John Stifler, The Daily Hampshire Gazette
“ Jay is a very beautiful and interesting guitarist, composer, arranger and a master of the inner line harmony.”
“Messer’s Quintet finds a wealth of riches that allow for another angle of individual expression.”
Jazz Improv Magazine
“Many play the guitar well (some maybe too well),know about the main cats, write nice tunes, etc...but something is often missing. I guess it’s the depth and maturity from someone who’s been living and honing their style for a long time...like Jay.
Mitch Seidman, Professor at Berklee College of Music, Boston, and was contributing
editor to 20th Century Guitar Magazine
To order CDs on line from amazon.com or cdbaby.com. where you can listen to 1 min. samples as well.
To receive performance information or to order Jay's CDs direct from SHEJAZ Records send an e-mail request to email@example.com.
Jay Messer Jazz Productions provides sophisticated jazz to enhance any gathering, event or venue. Swinging quintets and quartets, mellow trios and duos and solo jazz guitar.
* Fine restaurants and clubs
* Corporate parties
* Business meetings
* Retirement celebrations
* College functions
* Holiday gatherings
* Rehearsal dinners
* Events and celebrations large and small