Mr. Chair, Better Days Review
by Stamish Malcuss
Mr. Chair is as unusual of an ensemble as this jazz group’s music. Made up of classically trained musicians well-versed in jazz, electronics, progressive rock, world music, and more, Mr. Chair brings a new perspective to the term contemporary fusion ensemble, for music fans of all backgrounds. Their sound palette is diverse and used to tell stories in cinematic, surreal, romantic, funky, and whimsical styles. Mr. Chair comprises Ben Ferris: on bass, José Guzmán: on guitar, Mark Hetzler: on trombone, Mike Koszewski: on drums, Jason Kutz on keyboards, Eddie Barbash: on alto saxophone, and Buzz Kemper: on spoken word. In addition, Mr. Chair is announcing their album Better Days, a collection of nine originals that will surely surprise these qualified musicians with its eclecticism and performances.
“March” grows with themes and designs with classical precision and orchestration but the groove of well-paced fusion. Hetzler’s trombone sound is beautiful as he plays the theme. Every ensemble member finds creative ways to expand the composition with their part and by expanding the sound of their instrument. For example, Guzmán and Kutz both change their sounds during different sections of the form. Details like this make Mr. Chair a dynamic listening experience.
“Britten’s Written Rhythm” is a composition by Kutz that instigates jazz, classical contours, and world music. The execution of textures and layers is the winning factor here. The harmonic streams and textures are well integrated with all players creating an exciting setting. Each section has fresh moments and catchy phrases to maintain flow and development. The linear movement of Mr. Chair is a theme, coupled with the surprising segues; this track is built for our aural amusement.
Mr. Chair is a talented ensemble presenting compositions driven by textures and their flexibility in creating different sounds. Better Days plays like a musical poem to produce a vibrant fusion sound that is fresh and entertaining. Fusion fans have found the gem of the year with Better Days, and it’s only March.