“The album ‘Keep The Blue’ is a brilliant celebration of timeless Jazz, tipping its hat to the various sounds and styles that have powered the genre to the place that we find it today. This is a collection of great songs delivered with poise and panache. It seduced me immediately.”

— CBC Radio

REVIEWS

CADENCE JAZZ WORLD

Justin Chart’s latest album PROSPER, is a beautiful connection of mood and melody, ranging from shivery melodious Jazz to hard-bop and swing. This is music of the night. The quintet plays beautifully and fills your ears with great grooves and hot riffs in this modern-day speakeasy. I can imagine the martini’s being stirred, men shooting their cuffs, and ladies dressed to the nines. There is a spine-tingling expectation in this scenario where the album Prosper is the soundtrack. All are in the moment, eloquently and elegantly as it evokes all the energy and attitude that the live shows are all about.

“Love on Lexington” cuts through like a lighthouse of emotional integrity.

“Pale Gold and Faded Green” is a powerful, impressionistic tune, the tension lying between Chart’s exotic patterns and the many angles that his saxophone phrases, casting off sparks with “A Groove I Approve”. There’s heart, nuanced tonality, and the interaction of an intuitive composition.

“Another Apple” is a combination of laid-back charm and pure burn. They would not allow cameras in the speakeasy, hence no video, this music lets your imagination run wild. Chart is a burning soloist, and seems alive to the possibilities of this freeing format, it is timeless, in that it can’t be pinned down to any era, it is evocative and mesmerizing combination of a place you may not know but where you’re always welcome.

Like a city at night, “Essence of Eminence” tells a long, lovely story with throaty spits and burly growls. Sauls comps and solos are clean and melodious, they set the stage for Chart to do what he does best. This set is passionate and their music has the ability to make you feel, be it a slow haunting introverted ballad or a 320-bpm frenzied super swing. I love the way that the listeners attention is constantly being enthralled by various degrees of spiraling solos that coat every performance with a glistening form of storytelling, it kept me dialed in all the way through.

Prosper is a vehicle for Chart, with its hidden depths as it reveals something new and rewarding each time you play it, from Charts virtuosic cadenzas to Robbins spacious Bass solos. Chart himself sounds voracious as he roars on “Use it Wisely” Lobato on Drums keeps it right and tight. Is this the reality of the fusion between soul and sound? Not to mention the courage required to even entertain such a format, and done so with a passion and soul wrenching honesty. If you get a chance to see any of Justin Charts ensembles live, you will see how immersed they are in the moment, they have to be, in each case, drawn from masterful understatement.

This album has me right there and makes me want to play it way to loud! PROSPER is a phenomenal live album, outstandingly powerful, in the style of a 1960’s Verve record, unique, imaginative, and sensuous with mesmerizing melodies, and powerful rhythmic interplay. It is an adventure into a land where the dynamics and freedom of improvisation can meet the power and intensity of Hard Bop.

Cadence Jazz World

FANFARE The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors

CHART Prosper Justin Chart Quintet- Universal Music Group Live: Sid’s Speakeasy, Los Angeles Spotify, also available via Amazon, Deezer, iTunes and YouTube Music.

Previous encounters with the music of Justin Chart have been extremely positive: Intuition was reviewed in Fanfare 45:3, and The Midnight People in 46:3. The new offering, Prosper, if anything takes the standard up a notch or two. The first track, “Love on Lexington”, is an extraordinary explosion of energy with a trumpet and drum solo that defies all expectations. Chart in duet with his trumpeter is superb, two “voices” as one. The second track, “Prosper”, offers a nice contrast, the small ensemble nevertheless referencing big band gestures of collective musical statement presented in rhythmic unison before Chart’s sax goes off the rails in a flurry of what, if notated, would result in a musical page that would very much favor black over white.

The track “The Best is Yet to Come” offers another fine example of this. If Prosper signals Chart’s white-hot virtuosity, “A Slice of Entice” reveals his ability to sing via his instrument. The sax playing here veers towards the vocal not only in its cantabile, but also in the actual sounds made, the timbres encountered (something apparent again in the penultimate track, “A Groove I Approve”). A slice of calm comes with “Essence of Eminence”, the epitome, surely, of night-time jazz, equaled only by Chart’s haunting nocturne of “Pale Gold and Faded Green”.

That his album is completely improvised is remarkable. The technical excellence in itself is remarkable, from all five players. The backgrounds to Chart’s sax are almost as impressive as the soloist himself: take the players’ groundwork in “Another Apple”, before Chart’s line creates the perfect linking of cantabile and scurrying improvisation with lines as unpredictable as those of a curlew in flight. The sheer underlying energy of “Use it Wisely” is testament to the excitement Chart’s playing can create, not least in the sax squeal at his re-entrance after a percussion break. We hear Chart sing in “A Grove I Approve” (a scat break, brilliantly done) It is the rhythmic intricacies, the cross-currents, of the final track, “I See Lee”, that impresses so much (not to mention a break in octaves from Chart and a colleague that is preternaturally together)

So, another brilliant jazz offering of spectacularly high standards from Justin Chart and pals. The recording is perfectly judged, the perspective just right (present but not invasive). Ever-positive audience reactions are included. Unhesitatingly recommended on all fronts.

Colin Clarke
Fanfare Magazine

CBC Music

Justin Chart Keep The Blue UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP

I will say that the way Justin Chart wields alto saxophone is a breath of fresh air. Fluid and eloquent, Mr. Chart has a few sonic secret weapons that many modern day altoists, do not. His songs are melodic and powerful. They are built on groove and space. He has something to say without using words. That being said, he brings out the Baritone for this album, and the crowd loves it.

Keep The Blue is adventurous, which makes it so cool. Justin seems to make so much happen with ease. No unnecessary layers and motifs. If you have a good song then it will speak for itself. “A Tribes Vibe “does just that. Justin floats his glistening sound fluidly over the attentive work of his rhythm section. With his use of substitute chords, he makes a daring choice of notes, and produces a clear penetrating sonority which gives him the unique sound that is all his own. Joined by vibraphonist Alex Burke, bassist Bill Markus, and drummer Kyle Crane, this is a seductive live album. Justin’s huge tone, and relentless improvising inventiveness are consistently impressive. On quite a few of the songs, I must say Bill Markus and his thematic bass solos are soulful and he bows with the best. Keep The Blue is cool and understated yet infectious and eloquent, it makes you want to kick off your shoes and have a spin around the room. Groove meets grace, rhythm meets roots, understatement meets perfect poise. It’s an album that is based on these wonderful and unexpected trade-offs and cool jazz juxtapositions. It is the sound of authenticity and also of a bright new future. “Excursion to Then” reveals a multidimensional soundtrack vision. Chart is jabbing and weaving with a powerful groove on “Blast From The Fast”. The invigorating dialogues between Baritone saxophone and keyboard are a projection of a powerful earthly force.

This is the sound of the past being revived for the present. Of basement jazz men gathering to blend back street Los Angeles jazz clubs via the nights of New York. It is the sound of a live vibe that music took when less worthy sounds somehow took over the mainstream. It is the sound of a midnight ritual designed to bolster Justin Chart’s power of flexibility on this album. This album is a beautiful work of Chart.

CBC Music

FANFARE The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors

Justin Chart
The Midnight People
(UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP)

There is a reason this album is multiply-submitted for a Grammy. I previously enjoyed Justin Chart’s album Intuition (Fanfare 45:3); auditioning both albums via Apple’s superb Lossless streaming on a pair of Airpods Max.
The whole is infused with a spirit of energy that is just compelling. Chart’s alto sax solos in the first track, A Blaze of Well Being, are overwhelmingly good (there is a shout of that great Americanism, “Awesome,” from an audience member. The piece is, indeed, ablaze with well- being). The combination of sax and trumpet in Welcome to the Midst works perfectly, (as it does in the absolutely vibrant Lickity Split) the perfect foil for A Blaze, where Chart’s pick-up after Stuart Elster’s superb solo is brilliantly managed. As the sax solos become more advanced and virtuoso, so the excitement mounts. The title of A Rose Tinted Realm certainly made me smile; this sax song animated by pizzicato walking bass includes the most brilliant solo from Chart, compelling in its rhythmic play and the perfect crown for the song.

Nothing can prepare one for Chart’s vocals in Lettin’ Go, though. They launch the track, unaccompanied, and are greeted by justified applause and a gutsy “thank you” before a high-hat cymbal animates the instrumental section. This is ingenious: Chart returns, solo again, and perhaps the final touch of genius is to have the band provide the final low note of his solo as a bridge. A soulful The Tale Was Told, Chart’s alto sax highly expressive in its upper registers (Bill Markus adding a superb bass solo).
As a showcase for Chart, this album can hardly be bettered. His sax sings again in The Tale Was Told, a track with something of a 1970’s vibe, The differentiation between tracks and the carefully considered order plays an important part, too: how well the more laid-back song without words of She Absorbed Him contrasts with Lickety Split. She Absorbed Him contains some of Chart’s finest work, a brilliant exposition of his genius, a jewel in this particular crown (despite the more overt virtuosity of the energizing With the Bunch).
Again, it is the polished interaction between band members that allows One Pure Star to shine (sorry about the pun), here Bil Markus’ double-bass against Chart’s vitally alive sax lines.

The titular track, and the longest on the album at 7:29, comes last, opening with Abe Bolano’s superb percussion solo (which I have to say sounds stunning in Apple Lossless and in this recording); Chart’s alto sax sounds simply amazing in his fast, remarkably agile solos. There seems to be real stamina at work here, too.

A further affirmation of Chart’s excellence, then. Wholeheartedly recommended; his solos animate this album into the highest stratum.

FIVE STARS
Colin Clarke, JAZZ JOURNALIST/HISTORIAN