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Cloud Nine Album Reviews


“…Australian-born, New York-based alto saxophonist-composer Jacam Manricks has been quietly churning out quality recordings as a leader that feature some of the most in-demand players on the NYC scene. Cloud Nine, his fourth, is no exception. With Adam Rogers on guitar, Matt Wilson on drums and Sam Yahel on organ, he has recruited first-class talent. Together they forge a potent, swinging chemistry on Manricks originals like “Any Minute Now,” the soothing, harmonically rich “Loaf” and the “Giant Steps”-influenced “Take the Five Train.” Rogers is a six-string marvel throughout, and Wilson’s choices never fail to surprise. Manricks proves himself a stellar improviser, particularly with his impassioned, unaccompanied “Serene Pilgrimage.” The copasetic crew also turns in a sparsely haunting rendition of Jobim’s “Luiza” to close…”


“…If you are looking to gift a hip jazz CD that won’t offend yet will impress, here is a contender. Matt Wilson has little to prove other than his usual sensitivity and responsiveness, and Sam Yahel’s organ provides the shag-pile on which everything rests.  Australian born alto saxophonist Manricks has a Sri Lankan/Portuguese background and both jazz and classical forebears in the family, so is steeped in cultural interchange; his artistry possesses old-soul provenance. Subtle metrical shifts abound, and the title piece has punning implications of 9/8. Yahel does a supurb job imbuing the Finish Hymn “Ystava Sa Lapsien” with a haunting, elegiac quality. Wilson whips up a quiet storm in back to stem any syrup as Adam Rogers, the consummate sideman, drop shadows. On “Any Minute Now”, a phrase syllabically repeated in various modulations, Yahel drops a fragment of “If I Only Had A Brain”, after the leader’s buoyant, well constructed solo and a passing suggestion of the Harold Arlen melody in Rogers foray…”


“…Trigonometry, the third album by alto saxophone rising star Jacám Manricks, was a stellar post-bop set. It was just the kind of record you’d expect with a guy of his experience, education and raw talent, accompanied by such leading lights as Gary Versace, Joe Martin and Alan Ferber. For his next album, Cloud Nine, Manricks trades in the sax/trumpet/trombone sextet for a sax/organ/guitar/drums quartet and the lineup is even more impressive than before: Sam Yahel (organ), Adam Rogers (guitar) and Matt Wilson (drums), all legit composers and leaders in their on right, form Manricks’ backing band for this outing. Oh, and David Weiss adds his trumpet for one track.


The change in lineup and structure doesn’t change Manricks’ compositional approach, which combines subtly complex rhythms with harmonies that are rooted in tradition but modern in scope. Yes, the music is soulful, but this isn’t soul-jazz any more than the prior record was.


Yahel is the organ guy to call up when you need just the right cadence, the rightfeelcoming from that Hammond B-3, and not just a bunch of Jimmy Smith licks. Though he barely takes a solo on this Finnish hymn converted into a mood piece “Ystävä Sä Lapsien,” it’s the moan and dirge-y sound he gets from his organ that makes the song. Manricks often calls for a lot of swing, and Wilson ably supplies it on such finger snapping tunes like “Cloud Nine,” Any Minute Now” and “Take The Five Train” (YouTube below), which borrows some chords from Coltrane’s “Countdown” and makes it into a less tense, more swingin’ affair. Adams’s soft fluid lines work well with Manricks; “Take The Five Train” and “Cry” contain spotlight moments by him.


Weiss’ cameo occurs on one of the ballads, “Alibis And Lullabies,” where both he and Manricks turn in exquisitely understated solos. In case there needed to be any reminder whose record this is, Manricks performs “Secret Pilgrimage” all by himself, showing impressive technique, real emotion and unwavering vitality.


I’m not gonna lie to you, stocking the roster with all-stars at the peak of their own careers makes the record better, heck, it’s almost an unfair advantage. But Manricks definitely belongs in that group. With his fourth album now under his belt, Manricks is coming along right on schedule, and I get the feeling we haven’t even heard the best from him yet. Meanwhile, Cloud Nine is an enjoyable stop on the way up to the top…”


The euphoria-based title of Jacam Manricks’ latest album makes perfect sense. After all, who wouldn’t be on cloud nine with a band like this?! For his fourth album, the Australian-born, New York-based saxophonist mingles with three modernist elites who help to shape and define his sound. While Manricks’ compositional prowess could easily allow him to fully script every little musical nuance conveyed on this album, he wisely allows the distinct personalities on this date to add their own thoughts while still maintaining his vision.


Guitarist Adam Rogers joins Manricks on the front line, using his focused, yet lithe lines to deliver compelling solos and shadow the saxophonist during their mutual melodic excursions. Drummer Matt Wilson brings his inimitable sense of groove-plus-the-unexpected into Manricks’ world and, though he’s often the game changer when he shows up in the studio, that distinction goes to somebody else on this date. OrganistSam Yahel proves to be the most important impetus in helping Manricks explore new frontiers in his own work. Yahel’s playing is nothing short of spectacular, as he explores the aural possibilities that exist within the organ.


The album opens on the pulsating title track, but the mood quickly changes. Manricks’ arrangement of a Finnish hymn (“Ystava Sa Lapsien”) finds the group in looser confines. Yahel’s mysterious and semi-atmospheric organ and Wilson’s free-roaming thoughts set the tone for this song before the mournful theme comes into focus. “Any Minute Now” features an easygoing melody, as Wilson steers the ship with his Afro-Cuban-to-swing shifts, and Manricks’ nod to John Coltrane—”Take The Five Train”—proves to be the high point of the album. He borrows the changes from Coltrane’s “Countdown” and puts them in a 5/4 frame, but it’s his soloing, rather than this reconstruction, that makes this track such a winner. The heartfelt “Cry” also finds Manricks in fine form, as he delivers swooping runs during his solo spot.


While the first half of the album flies high on the ideas and machinations that Manricks concocts, the album hits a slight rough patch after the halfway point. “Alibis And Lullabies,” which features a guest appearance from trumpeter David Weiss, comes across as a bit underdeveloped and listless. The follow-up track—the unaccompanied “Serene Pilgrimage”—provides a welcome look at Manricks, as a solo performer, but it sounds more like woodshedding than fully formed music. Fortunately, things come back into focus with “Loaf” and the album ends with a stellar reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim‘s “Luiza.” This last number is a textural marvel, as Manricks delivers under-his-breath lines behind Rogers before coming into the light. Yahel blends in and out of the scenery, while Wilson keeps everything on the grid with his soft, but firm brushwork. This number is a true team effort in every respect…and that’s what jazz is all about.


Track Listing: Cloud Nine; Ystava Sa Lapsien; Any Minute Now; Take The Five Train; Cry; Alibis And Lullabies; Serene Pilgrimage; Loaf; Luiza.

Personnel: Jacam Manricks: alto saxophone; David Weiss: trumpet (6); Adam Rogers: guitar; Sam Yahel: organ; Matt Wilson: drums.


“…Cloud Nine should easily make my year end best of list! Jacam Manricks musical stock is an arrow pointing straight up. Aside from Cloud Nine as his fourth release as a leader, Manricks is compositionally outpacing a great number of his contemporaries and when you toss in his well-respected status as an educator then you have one of the brightest alto saxophone talents to come along in some time.


“Cloud Nine” which is also the title track of this release captures and reflects the vibrant jazz scene that is the Big Apple. Creativity is the key word here as the band swings hard and when you have Matt Wilson not just in the pocket but owning it then the stage is ready for a killer record and Manricks slays this tune. “Any Minute Now” is a personal favorite. A keen sense of melody and a semi-hybrid of Afro-Cuban rhythm with a more standard swing feel and again the lyrical intensity from Manricks on this track seals the deal. “Alibis And Lullabies” features a guest shot by trumpet phenom David Weiss who takes a bit more command than usual on this gorgeous ballad dedicated to Manricks grandmother who recently passed on. “Loaf” features some great guitar work from the often under appreciated Adam Rogers. This is actually two tunes in one with a slight re harm that adds flavor without mangling a good melody. The first part of the tune is “Long Ago (and Far Away) and the second part of  ”I’m Old Fashioned.” Manricks creates a new tune but doing a riff on each. The only non original is a rarely performed ( by jazz artists) tune from Antonio Carlos Jobim and a perfect fit for this most formidable quintet. I would be remiss if I did not mention the outstanding organ work by the great Sam Yahel.


While this is of course Manricks release there is that delightful working band feel that can and in this case does take a very good release up to a great release in short order. Lyrically driven and with the ability to shift harmonics on the fly there is variety, texture and soul to one of the better releases you may find this year. One bit of irony at least for me is that Manricks is from Australia and I have yet to take on an Australian artist that was not top notch – Manricks keeps the streak going! Taste is of course subjective but it will show up again on my year end best of list!


Tracks: Cloud Nine; Ystava Sa Lapsien; Any Minute Now; Take The Five Train; Cry; Alibis and Lullabies; Serene Pilgrimage; Loaf; Luiza.


Personnel: Jacam Manricks: alto saxophone; David Weiss: trumpet (6); Adam Rogers: guitar; Sam Yahel: organ; Matt Wilson: drums.


5 Stars. Literally flawless with every aspect of the release on point!


“…Jacám Manricks – Cloud Nine (PosiTone Records) – For his second release on the Positone label (and 4th overall), alto saxophonist Jacám Manricks, a native of Brisbane, Australia, has assembled quite a cast to play his music.  GuitaristAdam Rogers, organist Sam Yahel, drummer Matt Wilson and, on one cut, trumpeter David Weiss, do exactly what one might expect, play with fire and intelligence. Wilson keeps the rhythms flowing and, on pieces such as the Finnish hymn “Ystava Sa Lapsien“, creates a “conversationalist” tone with the other musicians, not driving the song but adding numerous colors.  Rogers shares the front line while playing with intelligence and creativity throughout. He can so exciting even at lower volumes, as he so nicely displays on “ Take The Five Train.”   Yahel is a double threat – his bass pedal work sets the foundation for the songs, opening up the “bottom” for Wilson’s highly active percussion while his solos sparkle with invention (his work in the background also is quite fine. The organ and guitar spin a lovely web on “Cry“, Manricks wisely holding off until both have had their say. Then, he “ups” the intensity level with a crackling solo.  Although listed alongside the other musicians, Weiss only appears on the languid “Alibis and Lullabies“, his declaratory solo, with his crisp intonation, a pleasing foil to the bluesier sounds of the saxophonist.


As for Manricks, he plays like he composes, with great assurance and fluidity.  His compositions are fully-realized, not just riffs for solos.  When he steps out, one hear the lineage of alto saxophone, with hints of Charlie Parker’s flurry of riffs, Cannonball Adderley’s bluesy tones and the occasional more contemporary attack of David Binney.  Truly, he has absorbed any and all influences which the listener hear in great clarity on his unaccompanied piece “Serene Pilgrimage.”  He displays a much softer and richly melodic side on Antonio Jobim’s “Luiza” – while Wilson’s drums dance beneath, the saxophone, guitar and organ weave around each other with gentle phrases swirling about.


As one knows, there are, seemingly, thousands of fine musicians throughout the world.  Many of them are technically adept, many are good composers and arrangers, but few are as accomplished as Jacám Manricks.  His writing is intelligent but not scholarly and his musicianship excellent and often soulful.  “Cloud Nine” shines!  For more information, go to….” 


“…Saxophonist Jacam Manricks is a player with a strong melodic sensibility, performing on this album with a potent unit which includes the leader on alto saxophone, Adam Rogers on guitar,


Sam Yahel on organ, Matt Wilson on drums and David Weiss sitting in for one track on trumpet. Manricks has a has a nice and individual tone on the alto saxophone, a light and floating texture that makes a marked contrast to the more pinched and tart feel favored many other alto players. The band’s patient and subtle style of music works quite well, and should make their music accessible to mainstream jazz fans. The combination of organ and guitar is always a beguiling one and particularly here with Yahel and Rogers playing together, and combining with them always excellent drummer Matt Wilson to lay superb foundation stones for Manricks’ solo flights and their own individual statements. Inspired by a visit to visit to the grave of Eric Dolphy, one of his prime inspirations, “Serene Pilgrimage” is particularly interesting, with Manricks taking the song as an unaccompanied solo performance, developing a meditation and mindful format that allows him to show off different facets of his technique. The majority of the compositions are Manricks originals, leading off with the title track “Cloud Nine” which makes the most of his light and airy tone, interacting with the band at speed. David Weiss sits in with the group on the complex original “Lullabies and Alibis” and the album closes with their sole non-original, a lilting performance of “Luiza” by Antonio Carlos Jobim…”


“…JACAM MANRICKS/Cloud Nine: Manricks makes you wish we were still living in a time when music was one of the main drivers of the culture and he would be celebrated rather than be another cat fighting for his piece of the pie. A stellar sax player that could spent the rest of his career on auto pilot and not draw any negative criticism for it, his writing and playing are so on the money that you know his next release will be more than just another one in the series. Spurred on by a certain timelessness that will always keep this set right in the moment, jazzbos looking for some good, solid music won’t be disappointed by anything on display here. Hot stuff that delivers.


“…Jacám Manricks is a saxophonist of incomparable technical skill with an engaging alto tone. His original compositions are challenging, yet maintain engaging and accessible qualities. His latest for Posi-Tone Records is Cloud Nine, featuring organist Sam Yahel, guitarist Adam Rogers and drummer Matt Wilson.
Despite this first-rate cast, a disc highlight is “Serene Pilgrimage”, a solo saxophone improv inspired by a visit Manricks made to the gravesite of Eric Dolphy. Other tracks of note include a 5/4 interpretation of John Coltrane’s “Countdown” called “Take the Five Train” with blistering saxophone work, and the ballad “Alibis and Lullabies” featuring guest trumpeter David Weiss…”


“…Jacam Manricks is an odd combination of traditionalist and
adventurer. There are times when the New York-based Australian’s
music sounds like a throwback to the Mad Men era: unruffled,
suave, effortlessly melodic. Then he hits you with a little sonic
exploration or a composition that defies prediction at almost
every turn, and you realise what a canny artist he is.
Canny enough to use organ on this new album. For years the
instrument’s only place in jazz was digging giant grooves and
filling them with thick weaves of sound. Gradually its chameleon-
like adaptability has come to be exploited: its ability to create
constantly shifting timbral backdrops, not to mention the
different texture and momentum offered by organ bass-pedals, as
opposed to using a bass.


Here the player is the brilliant Sam Yahel, joining the
leader’s alto saxophone, Adam Rogers (guitar) and Matt Wilson
(drums), with beautiful cameos from trumpeter David Weiss.
Wilson’s loose, lithe approach works well with the thrum of the
organ pedals, and Rogers’ restraint is at one with Manricks’
musicality. The saxophonist’s playing is steeped in bebop’s
agility, but has a woody mellifluousness, while his wide range of
compositional interests defies the norms of the organ/guitar
line-up and keeps this album engaging and surprising.
Manricks appears at 505 on August 30, and leads his own band
at the Sound Lounge, September 7…”


“…Following his highly acclaimed 2011 release Trigonometry, Brisbane born, New York based saxophonist/composer Jacam Manricks has put together an all new group for his fourth album, comprising seven originals plus two others. The high quality of Manricks’s intellectually stimulating compositions is already established and two in this collection are especially interesting because they take existing numbers and cleverly re-format them.  Loaf is based on the first part of Long Ago And Far Away and the second half of I’m Old Fashioned, opening with Sam Yahel’s organ and Adam Rogers’s guitar along with Matt Wilson’s drums, setting a jaunty rhythm for an alto and guitar paired theme. And when the alto starts to solo it soars high into exhilarating harmonics with swooping runs to lead into equally galvanising guitar work. The other re-worked piece is Take The Five Train, based on John Coltrane’s Countdown, arranged in 5/4 time and it sets out with a speeding Coltrane–style unaccompanied alto sequence improvising over the original changes, an approach that is maintained later in Manricks’s solo now underpinned by the rest of the group. Trumpeter David Weiss is brought on forAlibis and Lullabies to contribute in unison with the leader in the opening and closing of a slow and aching melody, on which both alto and trumpet solo with empathy. A lesser-known Jobim tune Luiza, features a variety of skilful interplay between organ, guitar and alto whilst Wilson maintains soft but firm brushwork throughout. Jacam Manricks, heading a NY trio, is touring Australia and New Zealand during August and September…”

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