Things were going so well in the studio for drummer Robert Jospé’s Express that he decided to continue the session and release a two-CD set, which is why the group’s latest album is called “Classics – Doin’ It Up.” The “Classics” disc – with Jospé, keyboards player Butch Taylor (a 10-year veteran of the Dave Matthews Band) and electric bassist Dane Alderson – includes jazz standards such as “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” “Wave” and “Autumn Leaves.” The “Doin’ It Up” disc, which adds guitarist Brian Mesko, is more jazz-rock oriented and includes compositions by, among others, Sting, Lennon and McCartney and the late jazz tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris.
Jospé, who teaches at the University of Virginia, is a supple yet intense drummer. Even when he is grooving along in the background and keeping the dynamics low, he is never far from an explosive rhythm break or call to arms for his troops. You listen for these moments and the ensuing ensemble climaxes. Also, the use of electronic instruments colors the performances differently from the customary piano-bass-drums acoustic trio. This is especially noticeable in the bass, where Alderson’s style is rangy, bubbling, guitar-like and reminiscent of the late Jaco Pastorius. Mesko’s style of wailing bent notes and bluesy, boldly declarative lines is another asset. And Taylor’s electric piano, aside from blending well with the guitar, colors the ensemble in shimmering tones. Jazz-wise, “Everything in Its Right Place/Maiden Voyage,” “Cantalope Island” and “Listen Here/Cold Duck Time” are the most appealing performances.
Hear Robert Jospé Express live at Raleigh’s Artsplosure festival Sunday, May 17.
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Correspondent Owen Cordle
Robert Jospé Express
Classics – Doin’ It Up