The Chris Madsen Trio, formed in 2010, has performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Brookfield Jazz Society, Andy’s Jazz Club, Club 3160, Katerina’s, Highland Park FOCUS on the Arts, the Ridgeville Park Summer Concert Series, the Bughouse Square Debates, and the Des Moines Social Club. Their 2011 debut album, “Chris Madsen Trio plays Bix Beiderbecke”, is available on JeruJazz records. The group’s unique take on the American Songbook is turning heads from Chicago to New York and beyond.
Praise for “Chris Madsen Trio Plays Bix Beiderbecke”:
“One of jazz’s first seminal soloists, cornetist Bix Beiderbecke’s musical output is often overshadowed by his romantic image as a tragic self-destructive genius (Beiderbecke was the inspiration for the Kirk Douglas character in Man With a Horn). As a result, his prodigious cornet work and compositions are rarely thoroughly examined. The Chris Madsen Trio ably rectifies this situation with their new album, which features several 1920s Beiderbecke performance vehicles (notably “I’m Coming Home Virginia”), as well as his endurable original compositions.
Although this recording is an impressive homage to the compositions and repertoire of Bix, the trio uncannily evokes the Commodore small group records of Lester Young, with each musician respectively playing the role of Young, Freddie Green, and Walter Page (unlike Green, who was perpetually the masterful accompanist, Effland solos quite a bit). As with Young’s legendary small group sides, the three artists on this recording ably glide through a number of early jazz tunes with an effortless sense of swing. For those of us Chicago folks who are familiar with his work, Chris Madsen is a kind of tenor saxophone wunderkind. In recent times, the instrument has become a stereotypical paradigm of jazz excess, replete with long solos and technical self-indulgence. Whether or not this stereotype is accurate, it most certainly does not describe Madsen. His uncanny lyricism and oblique melodic inventions have made him one of the most popular saxophonists in Chicago, and he certainly does not disappoint on this recording. Like Pres, Madsen displays a full-bodied tone that is simultaneously warm and supple, enveloping melodies like a warm blanket. His solos on this recording are remarkably devoid of patterns and clichés. Instead, he evokes an older generation of players with his ability to roll out witty melodic inventions with rhythmic creativity and effortless swing.
Effland is a “jack-of-all-trades” for the needs of this recording. He darts back and forth between artful quarter-note comping, melodic counterpoint against Madsen, and wonderful improvised solos. Like Madsen, Effland’s solos characterize an era in jazz where melodic invention was paramount, before pattern books even existed. At no place is this more evident than on “Ostrich Walk,” where his solo displays a superb sense of melodic architecture and form. Joe Policastro brandishes a centered bass tone, impeccable swing and imaginative solo work. His slap bass accompaniment on “Riverboat Shuffle” is a real treat. To boot, he is constantly plugged in to the interplay with the other two musicians. In fact, Effland and Policastro create such a strong rhythm section foundation, especially on “Riverboat Shuffle” and “Davenport Blues,” that one does not miss the presence of a drummer at any point on the album.
Although the solos by all three musicians are a constant highlight, it is the arrangements, which are rich in stylistic nuance, that really impress. The trio zips through romping swing feel, stop-time choruses, rhythm section breaks, unison passages and counterpoint. Madsen really dazzles with light, melodic invention on the rhythm section breaks and stop-time sections. Policastro effortless moves from lithe walking accompaniment to singing arco work. Effland’s pitch-perfect Green-esque comping contrasts perfectly against his melody counter-lines, readily apparent on “Dardanella.” All of these gestures are performed effortlessly, so it is hard to tell where the arrangement ends and the spontaneous group interaction begins. All in all, a terrific project.” -Dan Healy, Chicago Jazz Magazine