By Ed Enright | Published January 2020
One of the more interesting and hard-to-categorize releases of 2019 came from a promising new nine-piece instrumental band that blurs the lines between jazz, pop and rock. Led by saxophonist and composer/arranger Neil Carson, New Nostalgia features players from the Chicago scene performing fusion-inspired cover versions of pop tunes from the 1980s and original compositions that embrace a rock esthetic while showcasing fiery improvisations.
On New Nostalgia’s self-titled and self-released debut CD, Carson and company set out to reinvent songs from a bygone age of Top 40 radio by toying thoughtfully with form, deconstructing and reconstructing melody lines, stretching once-familiar harmonic terrains beyond recognition and soloing with soul-stirring exuberance. It’s power-polychord instrumental rock at its finest, spanning genres and decades, feeding off nostalgia for an era in American and British culture that preceded Carson’s birth. Tunes include “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears For Fears, “It’s My Life” by Talk Talk, “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman, Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” “Only You” by Yazoo and “Sussudio” by Phil Collins, plus the Carson originals “Listen” and “Jukebox Mo-nayy.”
Carson, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, drew on his considerable arranging skills in crafting adventurous, expansive charts for five horns (Carson on alto, Anthony Bruno on tenor, Andy Schlinder on bari, Connor Bernhard on trumpet and Matt Kowalski on trombone) and rhythm section (Brandon Hunt on guitar, Andrew Lawrence on piano, Tim Seisser on electric bass and Zack Marks on drums). Recorded at Chicago’s Transient Sound studio and mastered by Brian Schwab, New Nostalgia benefits from expert engineering and high production values: Its appropriately applied pop polish enhances the music’s dynamic sizzle. Since the CD’s release in April, New Nostalgia has appeared at such major Chicago-area venues as Martyrs’, Reggies, Fulton Street Collective, Hey Nonny and Club 210, among others. Keep an eye out for any opportunity to catch a performance by this slamming, all-instrumental group during 2020.
New Nostalgia: Listen; Everybody Wants To Rule The World; It’s My Life; Jukebox Mo-nayy; Fast Car; In Your Eyes; Only You; Sussudio. (57:06)
Personnel: Neil Carson, alto saxophone; Connor Bernhard, trumpet, flugelhorn; Anthony Bruno, tenor saxophone; Andy Schlinder, baritone saxophone; Matt Kowalski, trombone; Brandon Hunt, guitar; Andrew Lawrence, piano; Tim Seisser, electric bass; Zack Marks, drums.