Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Eddie Mendenhall-Cosine Meets Tangent-Miles High Records

Just until a few minutes ago the name Eddie Mendenhall didn’t ring a bell. And then too who, I mean whom would give a mathematical title to a new CD release besides Anthony Braxton maybe?

Entitled “Cosine Meets Tangent” by itself is far above my head, let it be said at the outset. That’s where the dialectics end. Mendenhall, something of a mystery man to a national audience but evidently not to folks out on the west coast long familiar with his high powered brand of artistry is a’heavy’ kind of spirit. Math aside he’s made a name for himself in jazz circles and will certainly solidify it with this debut.

A long time educator “Cosine Meets Tangent” is far from the pallid halls of academia. Quite the contrary. From the very first notes and melodies of “Protocol”, the opening cut Mendenhall and his compatible quartet swing and sway. Those rhythm mates are by-the-way vibist Mark Sherman; bassist John Schifflett and the venerable drummer Akira Tana. Sherman, is a distinctive voice on vibes has been garnering a steady rep is a delight to hear. Doesn't sound like the ‘garden variety’ vibist and is highly attentive and melodic. Bassist Shifflett lays in the pocket and what can you say about the potent master strokes of Akira Tana. The thing I’ve always enjoyed about Tana is that he is never afraid to make mistakes and sometimes sounds down right sloppy. But that’s OK because he can be exciting in the fray making up for it with subtle moves and shifts. He’s a hell-of-a drummer. Always has been.

Mendenhall immediately grabs the attention with his memorable tunes - the aforementioned ‘Protocol’ and ‘Spring Waltz” which beckons a little Bill Evans. If I were hard pressed to make comparisons Mendenhall arch's Hancock/Cables frivolity and Mugrew Miller/James Williams’ passion. He is of their lineage. And like them can swing with the best of them.

Of the disc’s 10 tunes Mendenhall writes 8, Sherman contributing one and ‘Easy To Remember’ the lone standard on which Sherman plays beautifully. When all said and done this is an exceedingly fine program to be proud of from an exceptional group and its up-to-the-task leader Eddie Mendenhall. I’ll remember his name now!

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