Sunday, February 27, 2011

Jazz Interplay: Noah Preminger

Scullers, Feb 23, 2011 -Noah Preminger
with Frank Kimbrough (piano), John Hebert (bass), Matt Wilson (drummer)

I recently had a chance to hear Noah Preminger, tenor saxophonist-composer, in his performance marking the release of his 2nd CD, Before the Rain.   Although this collection differs from his first CD, Dry Bridge Road, in that it is mostly ballads, the “creativity and passion remain extremely high" on both albums, according to Ed Enright, Downbeat.   I was certainly able that to hear that passion on this night.

The other aspect of this band that you can’t help but notice is their synergy. According to Preminger, there are things that happen between himself and Frank Kimbrough (piano) that "aren’t planned but are perfectly in sync."  And he seems to have that interplay with the other members of the band as well.
At first Preminger seemed a bit awkward on the stage in front of the audience, almost a shy can’t-look-you-in –the-eyes demeanor.  But I soon saw that this was one of the looks of a musician lost in his music, while maintaining enough control to produce some amazing range on the instrument. 
With the opening tune, the rich sound of the alto saxophone filled the room…gave me a chill right off. And I found myself lost, too, in this seemingly free-form medley that included Toy Dance, an Ornette Coleman tune.  Another Coleman tune, Street Woman, was embellished by Kimbrough’s compelling piano solo, his classical influences shining through. Preminger’s delightful interpretation of Where or When shows just how much of a “natural” this versatile musician is.
The bass player John Hebert, took a fabulous solo on the title song, Before the Rain, that was beautiful. Matt Wilson, the drummer, is clearly a favorite of the audience and after listening to his playing, I can see why.  
In Nancy with the Laughing Face, all four talented musicians are showcased with solos and the audience has a chance to witness firsthand, that magical thing that happens when musicians play off each other by sheer intuition.  Preminger, Kimbrough and (bass player) John Hebert have been playing together for nearly 4 years.  And it shows. Listen to how Preminger ends the song, how he and the others inject their own sort of voodoo into this beautiful tune. 
Interestingly, this is a song I never paid attention to until I heard Kurt Elling’s arrangement and delivery of it.  It turns out Preminger played with Elling in high school.  As an added note, I had the amazing opportunity  to attend Kurt Elling’s concert a few days later, at the same venue.  This was a good week for music.

Currently residing in New York, Preminger went to New England Conservatory of Music where he made some very important contacts including Ruth Lepson, a teacher and poet.  Preminger collaborated with Lepson, setting some of her poetry to the music.  Another former teacher from “the conservatory,” Bob Nieske, is a bass player that Preminger has played with.
Although Preminger grew up listening to a fairly eclectic group of musicians, including Joni Mitchell, Joshua  Redman, Orleans and Grateful Dead, his parents were avid Jazz enthusiasts and that clearly had an impact.  Today, Preminger cites Charlie Parker as one of the great influences on his music.  He also mentions Mun, an Icelandic band that has inspired him personally and Fred Hirsch, an “amazing piano player” says Preminger, who he will be playing with in an upcoming gig.
I, for one, will be keeping my eyes on the “up and coming” talent of Noah Preminger and his band.  For more information about Noah Preminger, go to

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