Oleg Kireyev & Keith Javors: The Meeting
The Meeting might appear on label founder Keith Javors' Inarhyme Records, but it's no second-rate vanity project. On this second outing with co-leader Oleg Kireyev (the first 2010's Rhyme & Reason, with drummer E.J. Strickland and bassist Boris Kozlov), the pianist shows himself to be an exemplary player, as do the other participants, saxophonist Kireyev on sax, lauded trumpeter Tom Harrell, bassist Ben Williams, and, as before, Strickland on drums. All involved bring impressive backgrounds to the project: Kireyev's career spans three decades, Javors' discography lists eight albums as a leader, Williams and Strickland bring respective associations with Pat Metheny and Ravi Coltrane to the gig, and Harrell's playing can be heard on more than 260 recordings.
The association between Kireyev and Javors began, by the way, in 2007 when the saxophonist's manager approached Javors with the idea of a gig at the Union of Composers Club in Russia (where Kireyev is Artistic Director), whereupon a friendship and collaborative partnership quickly developed and performances in Poland and Russia, including one at the International House of Music in Moscow, and at famed venues such as Smalls, Blues Alley, and Iridium soon followed.
Having rehearsed the night before, the five laid down the album in a single session on October 28th, 2013, with the set-list dedicated to originals by the co-leaders (two apiece) and covers of “Caravan” and “Body and Soul”; two alternate takes also appear. A perfect scene-setter for the release, Kireyev's buoyant “April” sprints from the gate, with Javors' singing lines powered by Strickland's ever-inventive drive until the spotlight shifts to the swinging theme voiced in unison by the saxist and trumpeter. Up first, Harrell's warm solo glides gracefully over the fiery backing, after which Kireyev steps up with his own robust statement and Javors with a vivacious turn of his own. The pianist's ballad “Inwardly” offers a striking vehicle for solos by Williams and Harrell, whilst also emphasizing how well the two horns complement one another, whether it be playing in unison or dueting.
Warm and effervescent in spirit, the material on the album sometimes extends into styles beyond jazz, from Latin (“April”) and samba (a trio treatment of “Estate,” written by Bruno Martino and Bruno Brighetti) to blues (the shuffle-stoked title cut). As much of a warhorse as “Caravan” is, the quintet invigorates it by adding Tuvan throat-singing and impassioned wails (courtesy of Kireyev) to its introduction, and does something similar to “Body and Soul” in undergirding the saxophonist's smokey expression with a laid-back, R&B-flavoured backing.In a perfect world, the album would include two more originals or covers in place of the alternate takes of “April” and the hard-bopping “Fresh Blues,” but the other seven tracks still constitute a substantial enough meal on their own. No, the album won't win any awards for experimental innovation, but the quintet's playing is inspired and at a consistently high level, and the tunes are an engaging bunch, too. Certainly anyone with a taste for high-quality swing shouldn't leave the recording dissatisfied.