When: Fri., Sept. 17, 9:30 p.m. 2010
Saxophonist Greg Ward, who left Chicago for New York a year ago, has established himself as one of the instrument's most adroit young practitioners, whether he's playing classic African pop in the Occidental Brothers Dance Band International or deftly trading postbop phrases with fellow reedist Tim Haldeman in Mike Reed's People, Places & Things. On the debut from his Chicago-based quartet Fitted Shards, South Side Story (19/8)—also his first recording as leader—he tries to cram in bits of every discipline that interests him, like many young jazz musicians do. He adorns his multipartite original tunes with shifting rhythms, elaborate harmonies, and improvisations that reflect his soulfulness and intellect, but the record suffers from fussy, overstuffed arrangements straight out of the 70s jazz-fusion playbook. What really spoils the album for me, though, are the 80s-style synthesizer tones and solo lines from keyboardist Rob Clearfield, a gifted technician with seriously bad taste. Drummer Quin Kirchner and bassist Jeff Greene ably navigate the serpentine charts, but their efforts aren't enough to shake off the visions of a keytar-slinging Chick Corea.