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James Carney PURE HEART (Sunnyside) Review

by Scott Yanow

James Carney, who lived in Los Angeles during 1990-2004 but has been an important pianist-composer in New York ever since, can always be relied upon to perform creative modern jazz. On Pure Heart, he is joined by other inventive and versatile players: trumpeter Stephanie Richards, Oscar Noriega on bass clarinet and alto, Ravi Coltrane (tenor, soprano and sopranino), bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Tom Rainey.

The performances of Carney’s five originals, while giving the musicians solo space, are perhaps most notable for the many ensembles which are crowded and often dissonant yet full of joy and spirit. Improvised ensemble playing sometimes seems like a lost art that was forgotten in the transition from swing to bebop, but Charles Mingus and some of the avant-gardists brought it back from time to time. Carney gives the three horns plenty of opportunities to interact with each other, whether accompanying each other’s solos or sharing the lead. Noriega’s bass clarinet is particularly effective in this setting but none of the musicians are overshadowed, coming together to form a happily ragged group sound that digs deep into the pianist’s compositions.

The results are well worth hearing several times. Pure Heart is easily recommended and available from


Mr. Carney is a sharp pianist and a broadly imaginative conceptualist and composer.” - Nate Chinen

— New York Times

Press Photos

Also from PURE HEART

James Carney, Richard Bonnet, Samuel Ber

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