LIVE: "Up Jumped Spring" / "Caravan" / "Centerpiece" / "Blue Waters" / "Footprints" / "Tennessee Waltz" / "Oleo" / "I'm Beginning to See the Light"
DIALOGUES, pt. 2: "The Days of Wine and Roses" / "Centerpiece" / "Sun on My Hands" / "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" / "Dialogues, pt. 2" / "And I Love Her" / "Put on a Happy Face" / "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" / "Tetragon" / "Gentle Rain" / "Girl From Ipanema" / "How Insensitive"
The ANTFARM QUARTET: "Dialogues With Doubt (Part 1)" / "Lucky I Guess" / "Over Easy" / "Dancers, Degas" / "Only Half a Cup?" / "Seascape" / "Waltz for Kenny"
"The Antfarm Quartet, anchored by pianist Jim Ridl, tackles some straight-ahead originals and standards in this live session. Ridl's kaleidoscopic intro to 'Caravan' is typical of his protean ways. So too is the pretty vibe of one of his originals, ''Blue Waters,' which ripens into a happening groove.
Vocalist Paul Jost, who also arranged four cuts, gives a raspy sheen to 'Tennessee Waltz.' His crusty baguette of a voice mixes Mark Murphy with a little Tom Waits.
The quartet with drummer Bob Shomo and bassist Tim Lekan covers some familiar ground...with artistic fervor. The solos are the point."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"Rarely does a new jazz vocalist inspire me to open a bottle of wine. Grab your corkscrew. Paul Jost is a genuine vocal musician, and the Antfarm Quartet is as cool as the object with which it shares its name. Jost began as a drummer, and added songwriting, and harmonica to his list. With a smoky, tannin-tinged voice, and the soul of an improviser, he brings bouquet and finesse...This piquant quartet is swinginí, complex, noble, and memorable, replete with the personality I look for...The entire CD conveys depth, character, and brilliance; one of the years best in my cellar.
When a prolific vocalist plants the seed of a down-to-earth pop song in the fertile soil of a copious quartet, itís guaranteed to thrive...Shomo cultivates a luxuriant groove that compliments Lekanís sensitive presence...Ridlís rich chords on Rhodes provide the ideal environment for Jostís misty voice...Those who might believe that classic pop songs have no place in the jazz garden may change their tune when they hear this...This quartet is of a rare genus and Iíd bet the farm on them. "
"...(T)he thought of a new CD with varied, solid repertoire gave me great pleasure before I had heard a note. And when I encountered this quartet of New Jersey musicians and found their work well-recorded, their CD issue intelligently varied, I was even happier. Ridl is a fine pianist, given to pure melodic statements, spiky wanderings (the opening passages of 'Happy Face') or impressionistic musings ('Sun on My Hands'), Lekan a first-rate bassist, not given to the excesses typical of bassists, someone with a resonant sound, a solid harmonic sense, and fine intonation, Shomo a sensitive, swinging drummer.
Together, they form an admirable trio. However, Paul Jost's vocalizing is an integral part of this quartet. He has a pleasing voice, reminiscent of Mark Murphy with some of the timbre of Harry Connick, Jr. When his vocal outings are concise, as on 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart,' the results are commendable...Jost's sincerity and energy are never in question..."
"The Antfarm Quartet is an ultra-hip ensemble of seasoned east coast jazz musicians with like-minded ideals. On Dialogues, pt. 2, vocalist Paul Jost, pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Tim Lekan and drummer Bob Shomo demonstrate a collaborative penchant for soulful experimentation on a solid set of originals and standards.
In an era of male jazz vocalists jousting for position as Rat Pack wannabees and angst-ridden, twenty-something posers, Jost is a sigh of relief. He possesses an abundance of convincing vocal qualities, most notably his ability to deliver fresh, uncontrived readings of overdone standards like 'The Days of Wine and Roses,' 'Girl From Ipanema' and 'How Insensitive.'
Jostís somber rendering of Rodgers and Hartís 'I Didnít Know What Time It Was,' complimented by Ridlís minimalist accompaniment, is drenched with pathos and is astonishingly compelling.
Ridl is a dynamic force on the keyboard. The North Dakota native demonstrates dexterous command on the up-tempo 'Put on a Happy Face,' and dense lyricism on his own ballad 'Sun on My Hands.' Lekan and Shomo swing along with unremitting energy, elevating the intensity of each groove and providing a relaxed foundation for Jost and Ridl to shine. Lekan also contributes to the bouncy title track, an engaging group-improv piece that maintains a relaxed pocket.
High-level musicianship aside, the real charm of The Antfarm Quartet lies in their communal sensibilities: they sound like a real band. Dialogues, pt. 2 is full of give-and-take, humility and warmth."
- All About Jazz
"...(T)his CD contains some fine straight-ahead jazz by a group of excellent musicians...Just as ants do their work tirelessly without a leader, this dedicated group has no designated leader. However, more like a bee hive than an ant farm, the entire album is dominated by the singing of the multi-talented Paul Jost.
Jost belongs to two classes of jazz vocalists: those like Chet Baker, Jon Hendricks, Kurt Elling, and J.D. Walter, who utilize scat and vocalise (Baker was an exception), rhythm, and inflections to convey a sharp 'instrumental' and 'existential' feel; and those like Satchmo (Louis Armstrong), Louis Prima, and Jimmy Durante, whose gravelly voices we constantly forgive because they communicate something important musically - a grunt by Armstrong was worth a thousand notes; Prima caught something of the Italo-American soul; and Durante's version of 'I'll Be Seeing You (In All the Old Familiar Places)' and other songs conveyed a deep pathos.
...(T)he listener becomes absorbed in his highly intelligent, richly emotive, and musically sophisticated renditions of several standards and two originals: 'Sun on My Hands' and 'Dialogues, Pt. 2,' by band-members Jim Ridl and Tim Lekan respectively. Jost uses rhythm and dynamics to great effect to evoke the variety of moods suggested by the tunes, and the degree of swinging force that such a human can bring to the music is surprising.
As always, Ridl's piano playing is superb throughout. 'Sun on My Hands,' from his CD Door in a Field (Dreambox Media, 2003) is lyrical and sensitive. Throughout Dialgoues Pt. 2, he livens things up with assertive comping and brilliant solos. Ridl is one of the most remarkable and creative jazz pianists on the scene. Bassist Tim Lekan and drummer Bob Shlomo stay mostly in the background, but they provide both interesting ideas and outstanding rhythmic support. The entire group shines on Joe Henderson's bebop tune 'Tetragon,' a stimulating composition that deserves to be performed much more often.
This album is going appeal both to seasoned lovers of mainstream jazz and younger audiences who like their music with a touch of twisted-ness. Its singular virtue is the way it synthesizes these two idioms and makes something interesting out of the mix."
- All About Jazz
"Jazz players pride themselves on their willingness to listen to each other, which opens up the possibility of conjuring up the magic mojo, that indefinable quality of feel, groove, or soul. The truth is that rarely in even professional jazz ensemble playing is a confident collective vision summoned up so solidly that the performance becomes transcendent, elevated to the legendary grooveland. But there is a rare kind of communication, both inner and outer, on display in this new release by the Antfarm Quartet. An... attunement. No small wonder that the CD is entitled 'Dialogues.'
Basically, this is a delightful piece of work, a true collaboration by accomplished musicians who obviously love what they do. But can you dance to it? Or is that a banal parameter to impose on contemporary jazz? Not if you want your audience to snap fingers, tap feet and bop heads, responses which this CD generates with ease. You can samba, slow dance, or just relax to this one. Regardless of its deep and nourishing complexity, 'Dialogues' never refuses to speak to the body.
This relentless romanticism comes courtesy of Paul Jost's stunning singing. His burnished, soulful vocals are remarkable - rhythmically and tonally spot on, daringly inventive and freely expressive in true jazz tradition, but uniquely his own. In both the charted vocalization (wordless vocals) and his improvised scatting, Jost's musical soul shines, and it's simply thrilling to hear. Today, when the true male jazz singer has taken a media back seat to hordes of semi-talented Sinatra soundalikes and R&B wannabes, Jost nearly single-handedly reclaims the male voice as a valid and critically important jazz instrument. He swings breezily, scats with ease and authority, and softly seduces the listener with a catchy combination of the crystalline soulfulness of Sting and the fearless inventiveness of Mark Murphy. If that comparison seems somewhat glib, just listen to him soar and you'll soon realize what a remarkable accomplishment it is for an original jazz vocalist today to be both accessible and deep.
...Jost's dramatic, whispery recitative during the band's surprising deconstruction of the Rogers and Hart chestnut 'I Didn't Know What Time It Was' is a subtle example of how a sensitive singer can literally breathe new life into the words...
Underneath all this lyric romanticism, a trio rambles along in a series of graceful grooves. Bassist Tim Lekan, pianist Jim Ridl, and drummer Bob Shomo play in relaxed harmony like the old friends they are. And although the polished arrangements are elegant examples of jazz trio invention, the listener is often surprised by small touches - the soft cymbal crash that instinctively punctuates a line of improvised scat, the piano phrasing that pushes and pulls the band along a wave of orchestration, and ringing bass tones that can create a brooding atmosphere.
Ridl is a true trio keyboardist, and his playing is noteworthy here for what he doesn't, as well as does, play. Confidently sublimating his ample chops for the overall craftsmanship of each track, he's happy to let bass, drums and vocal sail along while he slips in sly punctuation with spare phrasing and chunks of delicious chords.
Lekan revels in revealing new shades of his talent with each track. He's that rare breed of bassist that can play swiftly yet sonorously: and although his rhythm work is righteous, he's most effecting in the lowest registers, where his shadings lend a magisterial acoustic, notably in the slower pieces.
Shomo is rarely less than impeccable. His cymbal playing has a particular precision that allows him to flavor each track with colors and textures that rise to a Elvin Jones-style sense of tonality. Above all, he drives the band, but never overstates his case nor underplays. He's not just in the pocket, he is the pocket.
Along with other delightful reinterpretations on this CD, who knew that 'Put On A Happy Face' could swing so mightily? Antfarm might have taken a cue from Tony Bennett's lighthearted 1962 Carnegie Hall arrangement, but shoots the song straight into the swing stratosphere, propelling the musical comedy war-horse wildly forward under their own rhythmic delirium.
Other highlights include the band's re-imagining of 'Centerpiece,' where Ridl's voicings add atmospheric colors one never imagines a blues classic could have; a tender interpretation of Lennon and McCartney's 'And I Love Her;' a kicking version of Joe Henderson's 'Tetragon;' and two impressive originals: Ridl's contemplative 'Sun On My Hands' and Lekan's sweetly swinging title track are so evocative, they can raise many images in the imagination, but remain steadfastly strong as enveloping soundscapes. Lead by Jost's softly soulful vocalizations, both bear repeated listening.
What are the secret inbred agreements that allow a group to communicate so deeply? True friendship, shared idols, the commonality of generation, a wealth of experience onstage together? All of this and more Antfarm seems to bring to this intimate performance - these 'Dialogues' are one set of soulful conversations that you'll want to eavesdrop on many times over."
- Womans Journal Review (Atlantic County Woman)
"Straight forward modern Jazz with a strong dose of the blues...Ridl's voicings remind me of McCoy Tyner...he uses space and silence to his advantage. A strong left hand combined with a distinctively emphatic touch and a discursive approach to soloing make Ridl's work consistently exciting. Lekan and Shomo are steady and unobtrusive, keeping the proceedings moving right along. It's a cut above the ordinary, mostly thanks to the tight rhythm section."
"...a legato outing of six originals and a winsome Johnny Mandel tune, 'Seascape.'
Meashey's trumpet plies the gentle side, taking the lead frequently and maintaining a svelte front, while Ridl mixes it up, treading on the more difficult and playing knobby things only he hears. Shomo and Lekan keep matters cranking on the bottom end.
...the overall effect is agreeable, and the clean beauty makes it worth a listen."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"...a foursome whose similar backgrounds and common musical understanding merge to form a noteworthy group of understated depth.
Certainly, all of the members of the group could break out into furious individual improvisation, if the occasion so required. A good comparison is The AntFarm Quartet's interpretation of Jim Ridl's seemingly favorite composition, 'Only Half A Cup?' which he normally attacks in solo with unrestrained intensity. But adapted to the quartet, the arrangement adds a horn part for a clearly defined statement of the blues melody, while drummer Bob Shomo pushes the group with tom-tom rumbles, cymbal crashes and bursts of mini-dramas in the continuous build-up of off-the-beat phrases. Ridl retains a strong left-hand statement of rolling patterns complementing the bluesy right-hand work although metrically they appear to be independent of the other.
However, the other 6 tracks provide a more relaxed experience as Tim Lekan and Ridl have composed tunes more suited to singing, which is what trumpeter Bob Meashey does wordlessly with them.
It turns out that Meashey's trumpet is the primary voice of the group, particularly on the slower numbers like 'Waltz For Kenny,' which opens with the trumpet accompanied solely by Lekan's bass for a tentative and possibly mournful effect until the full rhythm section comes in for an exposition of the memorable two-note minor-keyed interval opening the tune. And then, slyly, the tune glides into a major key for a sunnier attitude than implied by the first chorus. 'Dancers, Degas' rises and then falls on adjacent notes, prolonged a little longer than grace notes would be, before the tune settles into an easy swing setting the stage for relaxed improvisation with a slight Latin feel.
Cohesive and dedicated to what could be a readily identifiable sound, The AntFarm Quartet has released a CD that's an enjoyable listen performed by some outstanding musicians who not only listen to each other when they play, but who obviously enjoy performing together."
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