Sam Gendel, COOKUP Review


Sam Gendel, COOKUP Review

by Icrom Bigrad

sam-gendel-cdSam Gendel is a composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles, known for his ability to create unique ambient jazz. Gendel‘s extensive discography includes collaborations with Sam Wilkes, Josiah Steinbrick, Pino Palladino, Blake Mills, Antonia Cytrnowicz, and more. Gendel also performs on two recent Nonesuch releases: Joachim Cooder’s Over That Road I’m Bound and Sam Amidon’s self-titled album. In addition, Gendel is releasing COOKUP, which he performs on saxophone, wind controller, synthesizer, piano, bass recorder, and nylon guitar. Joining Gendel is Gabe Noel plays electric bass, vibraphone, lap steel guitar, contrabass guitar, and cello guitar, and Phil Melanson plays drums and electronic percussion. The album was produced by Gendel and mixed by Dean Hurley.

The trio’s choice of expression is found in the sonic deconstruction of the album’s source material, which includes songs by Ginuwine, 112, Aaliyah, All-4-One, Soul 4 Real, Beyoncé, Joe, Erykah Badu, Mario, SWV, and Boyz II Men. Gendel’s version of 112’s “Anywhere,” featuring Meshell Ndegeocello on vocals.

“Differences” opens the album with Gendel’s saxophone tentatively leading us through the melody. The use of electronics and bass supports the piece. Never developing into any heavy or groove-based. Instead, the music floats between jazz-influenced new age and Avant-Garde in a manner that will stimulate and gives a unique expression to the original melody.

“I Swear” finds Gendel on the wind controller. The vibraphone is a pastel color to the accompaniment. The mellow new age appeal is furthered with the sounds of the ocean being added. Gendel’s variations on the theme are colorful but are added sparingly.

“Anywhere” with guest vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello has a swing ride cymbal that keeps the pulse alive through the interesting arrangement. Ndegeocello’s singing is expressive and fits with the ambient jazz colors of Gendel’s trio.

COOKUP has many textures, sounds, and expressions of ambient jazz coupled with New Age and Avant-Garde. If you enjoy jazz on the fringes or expressive arrangements of well-known pop tunes, this album with be of high interest to you.

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