REVIEWS

LA JAZZ SCENE

Justin Chart The Midnight People
(UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP)

Nearly all jazz musicians have a framework that they follow when they play onstage. While their solos are generally improvised, they have a guideline that serves as the basis of the performance, whether utilizing a set of chord changes, playing off a certain rhythm, or building from a preplanned emotion.

When one listens to altoist Justin Chart on The Midnight People and his prior recordings, it sounds very much like he and his group have rehearsed his set of originals several times. They react quickly to each other, the compositions are melodic and tonal, and the music progresses in a logical fashion. One would never think that everything was being created on the spot.

It is one thing for Keith Jarrett to improvise solo piano concerts, or for avant-gardists to perform free improvisations that are often dissonant and emphasize emotion over melodies. But it is quite another for Justin Chart and his group to be making up melodies, grooves, and frameworks while they are playing before a live audience. Chart simply picks a key and a tempo and off they go, creating new music that not only sounds coherent but quite exhilarating.

A virtuosic alto-saxophonist with a passionate sound and creative spirit of his own, altoist Justin Chart is a true original who seems incapable of playing an uninspired note. For his latest release, The Midnight People, the altoist is joined by trumpeter Mike Rocha, Stuart Elster on keyboards, bassist Bill Markus, and drummer Danny Beallo. These are all skilled musicians who follow Chart’s example of making spontaneous music that sounds as if it were a set of standards, not an easy feat to say the least.

The opener, “A Blaze Of Well Being,” is a swinger with Chart taking a blazing solo and Beallo contributing some colorful drum breaks. “Welcome To the Midst” has the group jamming over a funky rhythm while “A Rose Tinted Realm” is a straight ahead romp; both feature particularly powerful alto and trumpet solos. “Lettin’ Go” is a change of pace, a vehicle for the leader’s amazing scat singing.

The Tale Was Told” (which includes some excellent bowed bass from Markus) and “She Absorbed Him,” Chart’s leadership shows that they excel on jazz waltzes. “Lickity Split” has the altoist playing a fast pattern that serves as the basis of the piece. “One Pure Star,” lead by Chart’s sublime alto, has another memorable bowed bass solo, is a modal swinger while “With The Bunch” is a funky one-chord exploration with a trumpet solo from Rocha that will remind some of Freddie Hubbard. The closer, “The Midnight People,” features Chart swinging away with a different rhythm section comprised of pianist Charlie Ferguson, bassist Andrew Hill, and drummer Abel Bolano.

In addition to being a remarkable set of music due to the way it was created, The Midnight People, with its passionate solos, mood variations, melodic themes, and often-irresistible grooves, makes for a very enjoyable listening experience.

SCOTT YANOW, JAZZ JOURNALIST/HISTORIAN

All About Jazz

Justin Chart: The Midnight Group
UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP
Play Justin Chart on Amazon Music Unlimited

Saxophonist Justin Chart is an inventive and versatile musician who spontaneously creates mellifluous and enthralling soundscapes. Leading a synergistic band of like-minded sidemen. Chart excels in live improvisations that are simultaneously free as well as charmingly accessible. His output in the third decade of the century has been prolific without sacrificing artistic vision. The Midnight People is Chart’s third release of 2022 and continues the trend started in its predecessors.

The title track, for instance, simmers with a soulfulness and swings with a relaxed swagger. Chart blows his alto with abandon warmly embellishing the main theme.

Keyboardist Charlie Ferguson lays down a passionate and lyrical melody that bassist Bill Markus deftly supports. Meanwhile drummer Abelardo Bolano lets loose with an exhilarating solo that dovetails into the concluding refrains.

This relentless energy remains a hallmark of the album throughout. The opener, “A Blaze of Well Being,” progresses with a retro groove as keyboardist Stuart Elster invokes a 1970s vibe with his funky vamps. Chart’s own extemporization unfurls with gusto and panache over the group’s exuberant cadence. Once again, thunderous polyrhythms, this time courtesy of drummer Danny Beallo, close the tune. The taut atmosphere crackling with captivating electricity persists throughout. It is especially apparent on its penultimate piece, the cinematic “With the Bunch.”

Elster’s mordantly sweet keys buoy the thrilling and fiery exchanges between Chart’s gritty alto and trumpeter Mike Rocha’s resonant horn. Bassist Bill Markus takes center stage with crisp, reverberating lines that enhance the dramatic mood before Chart and Rocha engage in an ardent duet replete with shimmering tones. Markus bows with expressive beauty on the boppish “One Pure Star” and demonstrates a remarkable agility as he matches the beauty of Chart’s seductive saxophone.

On “Lettin’ Go” Chart showcases his superb scatting skills as he launches into breathtaking voice acrobatics that are as unique and innovative as his saxophone playing.

With The Midnight People Chart has produced another fine addition to his superb discography, demonstating his continuously evolving style that nevertheless remains easily recognizable as his own. The fluid synergy within the group, Chart’s own virtuosity, and the intricately constructed and charismatic themes make this a highly enjoyable and satisfying set.

HRAYR ATTARIAN

Pitchfork

Review of “Fear of Love” by Rian Mac and Justin Chart

“Fear of Love” is a stylish pop-jazz song by Rian Mac and Justin Chart.

In the era when real connections of any kind are hard to find and experience, the musical hyperlinks between different niches and genres have been budding with a tasty fruition time to time. “Fear of Love” picks up a certain current and marvels at the fusion of pop and jazz in style.

This radio friendly staple is a statement of consummate sensitivity Rian Mac fully embraces venturing into the warmth of coldness in a man’s sorrow and path finding. The accented emotion with an effortless but strong, convincing delivery and fitting lyrics elevate the listener to picture the artist who thrives on real-time connection thinking back to a time when his life morphed into different universe and now wondering how to find power to trust again. The mature cohesiveness gives an extra layer to Rian Mac’s energetic performance – a rare treat these days.

The other, marvellous, almost too good to listen to key of “Fear of Love” is the main theme by Justin Chart who is dexterous behind his mouthpiece. His steamy theme recalls the very best of the ’80s, he is as lively as Grover Washington Jr and as sensual and smooth as Kenny G in Silhouette; his music is heading straight into the heart of the audience and feels eternal yet new. Justin Chart’s elegant play has a confident control and reinforces Rian’s storytelling on a collision course with an alternate future. The groove works smoothly with the time aligned strict to grid rhythm section playing to one and their unity is rightfully crowned with the on point intonation and effortless belting by the experienced vocals.

For anyone lived long enough “Fear of Love” is an instant trip down memory lane with its catchy chorus and memorable chord progression easy to whistle and dance to. The right mix and master also contribute to the quality and that is greatly thanked to the Grammy nominated producer James Gardiner of Pajama Studios Oakland.

Music Authentic

As I sit here listening to “Fear of Love” by the talented duo Rian Mac and Justin Chart, it’s hard not to be captivated by the sheer brilliance of this track. The haunting melody of the saxophone paired with Mac’s emotive vocals make for a truly unforgettable listening experience.

From the first few notes, it’s clear that this is a song about vulnerability – the fear of letting someone see you for who you truly are. Mac’s lyrics speak to the heart, beautifully capturing the essence of what it means to love and be loved in return.

But it’s not just the lyrics that make this song such a standout. The production by Grammy nominated producer James Gardiner of Pajama Studios Oakland, is top-notch, with every element perfectly balanced and exquisitely arranged. The saxophone, in particular, stands out as a shining star – Chart’s virtuosity lending an almost ethereal quality to the track.

Overall, “Fear of Love” is a true masterpiece. It’s the kind of song that sticks with you long after the final note has played, leaving you feeling both moved and inspired. Rian Mac and Justin Chart are magnificent artists, and this track is a testament to their incredible talent and passion for their craft. Bravo