Australian pianist Mark Isaacs has hit a long stride with his band Resurgence, releasing the band's fourth recording Duende. His three previous recordings with Resurgence: Resurgence (ABC Jazz, 2007), Tell It Like It Is (ABC Jazz, 2010), and AuroraAurora (Gracemusic, 2011) have progressively probed the edges of contemporary jazz, filling out the sound that one might consider "contemporary mainstream jazz." While lyrically and harmonically progressive, Isaac's music is immediately accessible. This is what separates it from a good deal of similar music, be it avant-garde on one hand and smooth jazz on the other. Isaac's music stylistically bisects these, drawing just enough from each to make his vision more compelling (and entertaining) than either.
As with the previous Resurgence recordings, Isaacs composed the seven songs (with two reprises). Duende differs with the addition of Briana Cowlishaw's vocals on pieces featuring Isaac's lyrics ("You Never Forget Love") or as an additional instrument on the pieces without words ("First Light"). Instrumentally, Isaac's voice is omnipresent, supplemented by Matt Keegan's winds or James Muller's guitars. This creative front spins delicate lace of a breezy island variety on "The Beloved" and "Dolce." But Isaacs is not content until he updates the palettes of R&B and Funk with "Gnosis," which begins conventionally enough with some churchy piano.Keegan's tenor saxophone is full-throated and bar-walking, slipping in front of Muller's artful burn.
Isaacs provides two performances of the title piece, one orchestrated and one on solo piano. It is a moody and soft composition, floating and translucent. Songs like this require a penetrating but very light touch. Isaacs proves a very fine composer in both regards. His Resurgence band is a grand vehicle for his vision.
Track Listing: First Light, You Never Forget Love; Duende; The Beloved; Dolce; New
Lives; Gnosis; Duende (solo reprise); You Never Forget Love (extended
Personnel: Mark Isaacs: piano; James Muller: electric and acoustic guitars; Matt
Keegan: Tenor saxophone, alto clarinet, shaker; Brett Hirst: bass; Tim
Firth: drums; Briana Cowlishaw: vocals.