Ian Carey: Roads & Codes

Ian Carey Quintet + 1 will perform Sunday afternoon, June 2, 2013 at Chez Hanny (San Francisco) ….. Carey’s Takoyaki 3, a subset of the band, plays free at Yoshi’s Lounge (San Francisco) May 30 and July 11 ….. Carey performs as a duo with Ben Stolorow at the Garden Gate Creative Center (Berkeley) May 9.

Ian Carey Quintet + 1Roads & Codes (Kabocha, 2013)

careysmall“It’s relaxing but upbeat,” my daughter told me.

I think she meant “lovely but intense,” but at any rate, she liked the music.

Ian Carey is like that. Roads and Codes presents more of his jazz composing with that comforting post-bop feel that also includes attractive quirks in the composing and a leeway for sneaky, free/outside moments. He’s not trying to create a purely free-blowing session, and neither is he doing cocktail jazz. I like it.

roads-panelAt the same time, I’d written before about the marketability of such music. “Too edgy for California, not edgy enough for NYC” is the comment he relays on the album’s graphic-novel cover, like an anti-testimonial. My daughter was saying the same thing, I think, but meaning it as a double-compliment. Carey has produced some pretty tunes based on challenging compositional footwork, and he’s got a band that leaps from that platform into some intense exploration.

The music is not a Steve Coleman dimensional vortex or a Naked City frontal assault, but you can get a cerebral fix out of the 5/4 rhythms supporting “Rain Tune” and Neil Young’s “Dead Man.” Carey perks up the listener’s intellect while putting his puzzles in a comfortable jazz setting.

That’s where the most interesting modern jazz goes. It can present such a calm demeanor yet have a bubbling intensity underneath. It doesn’t take a trained ear to find it, either, just a willingness to follow the sound.

“Dead Man” is particularly ingenious, expanding on the simple stillness of Young’s theme for the Jim Jarmusch film. Carey adds a chord sequence that’s like a blooming sunrise, a cinematic touch from a whole different movie.

Not to dwell too much on a composition that isn’t Carey’s, but later on “Dead Man,” I do love the way he overdubs a ghost trumpet to accompany what I think is his own flugelhorn solo:

The album does get into charged, bop-oriented music on “Count Up” and “Nemuri Kyoshiro,” but it’s actually “Rain Tune” that caught my daughter’s ear. It’s airy and brisk, making good use of Evan Francis’s flute to set the mood.

One more sample: From “Nemuri Kyoshiro,” part of the sax battle between Kasey Knudsen (tenor) and Evan Francis (alto) that winds up the piece.

And of course, there’s the graphic-novel art that’s all over the CD package, including the fold-out liner notes. That’s a story in itself.

Download from eMusic, or get the full CD package from someplace like CD Baby.