CD Review: Ralph Carney’s Serious Jass Project “Seriously”

Posted: March 22, 2012 in Music
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Tin Huey’s Ralph Carney is currently a million miles and a million years (or so it may seem) from his time with that legendary Akron, OH band. Currently you can find Carney living out in the Bay Area of California where he fronts Ralph Carney’s Serious Jass Project. The Serious Jass Project (yes, it’s JASS, not JAZZ) is a quartet that is made up of: Ralph Carney on Saxes, clarinets, flute, trumpet and more; Randy Odell on drums; Ari Munkres on bass and Michael Mcintosh on keys.

Ralph Carney’s Serious Jass Project is a musical group that keeps the memory of the older jazz music alive. Much of the music that the band focuses on is the type of music that the founders of Rock And Roll might have been listening to when they were growing up, influencing them and their writing styles when they started creating their own style of music. Needless to say, most of the songs that Ralph and the band play are neither boring nor what you would normally call “standards”. The group is currently promoting their newest release, 2011’s Seriously.

Seriously begins with the Buddy Tate tune, “Blue Creek Hop”. While written way before the advent of Rock And Roll, this track is one of the most “rockin’” songs on the release. The energy level of the music will have you jumping out of your seat and onto the dance floor.

The Coleman Hawkins tune “Meet Dr. Foo” is the song that truly shines the light on the talent of Ralph Carney as a musician; on the track, Carney multi-tasks as he plays not only the saxophone, but also the trumpet and flute……all at the same time. The layering effect of the various instruments creates a sound that gives the impression that the Serious Jass Project is a lot larger than just Carney, Odell, Munkres and Mcintosh. The tune is the perfect opportunity for the listener to experience the quartet as a “serious” jazz ensemble.

In sharp contrast to the light, upbeat feel of “Meet Dr. Foo” the Serious Jass Project goes for something a lot more intense on the next track: It’s on the Duke Ellington tune “Echoes of Harlem” that the mood turns a little darker. The intensity of the playing of Michael Mcintosh on the piano gives the composition a lot of the feeling that Ellington wanted to convey when he wrote the tune. The ensemble really grabs your attention on this track.

Several of Duke Ellington’s tunes are included on Seriously. It is on Ellington’s “Carnival in Caroline” that the Serious Jass Project brings a little lightheartedness back into the mix on the release. Along with the core of Carney, Odell, Munkres and Mcintosh, “Carnival in Caroline” also features Mike Groh who adds some flavor to the band’s sound by playing the guitar on the track. But the most important element added to the song is singer Karina Denike. Denike’s beautiful, clear voice adds that touch of polish to truly bring out the beauty in Ellington’s song.

While there is a consensus in the music industry about the year that the musical genre “Rock And Roll” actually began, there are always those songs that seem to blur that defining mark in history. “Moondog Boogie” is definitely one of those “blurring” songs, as Freddie Mitchell’s “rockin’” song was written in 1952, a few years before the 1954/1955 mark. On Seriously, Ralph Carney’s Serious Jass Project gives “Moondog Boogie” the respect it deserves. The band takes the song and has fun with it, which includes the shouted refrain consisting of the tune’s title, “Moondog Boogie”. The track is another instance where the listener will find the need to get up and dance to the music played by the band.

A much slower tune awaits the listener a few tracks later by the title of “Pompton Turnpike”. The Will Osbourne and Dick Rogers-penned tune has been recorded many times since it was written; the most recognizable version of the song was probably done by Rock Hall Early Influence, Louis Jordan. The version created here not only features Ralph Carney on sax, but also Michael Mcintosh on the piano. Members of the band join in on the lyrics and Mcintosh later handles the feature vocals rather well, which is slightly better than the band’s vocals…….thankfully, they are very fine musicians.

All but one song on Seriously was composed by other writers. The last tune, however, is a track called “Echoes of Chloe,” which is a free-form jazz piece created by the band to end the album on a slightly unusual note.

Taking all of the elements that make Seriously what it is, there is much to enjoy when listening to this album from Ralph Carney’s Serious Jass Project. And whether you are a fan of jazz music or early rock and roll, this is a release that will definitely enrich your music collection.

Find out more about Ralph Carney’s Serious Jass Project and many other Cleveland-based bands and artists by checking out Smog Veil Records. You can also check out FLY PR, the PR firm that’s promoting this release.

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