BARB CHERON / TOM HEANEY – Interplay
Jazz recordings are so few and far between in Madison and that’s a shame because there is certainly no shortage of great jazz players, some world-renowned. Coupled with so few venues offering live jazz, it’s no secret that the jazz movement lacks force. It’s no wonder that blues and rock bands walk away with MAMA awards for “jazzy” songs they may create. Actually, it has been Cheron who has been most active, releasing two recordings over the past few years. She did win a handful of MAMAs for her first, Running Free. So it was a welcome sight indeed, to see a local jazz recording in our mailbox.
Interplay is a collaboration with longtime Madisonian, guitarist Tom Heaney. Heaney has played in numerous bands including the Robert J Project, the Bruce Koenig Band, Streetwise, My Latest Obsession, Shari Davis and the Conniptions, Metropolis, Code Blue, Road to Nowhere, Six of One, and the Beatnix. There have been others including duos with Michelle Grabel, and Jim Ripp.
Cheron trained and studied with renowned jazz guitarists Roger Brotherhood, Cliff Frederiksen and Don Linke. In addition, she studied classical guitar with UW-Madison Professor Javier Calderon and at the Milwaukee Conservatory of Music.
Being a collection of jazz standards and covers (there are no original compositions) the twelve selctions on Interplay do lack a certain amount of fire. This is jazz music that’s played close to the vest, the compositions being handled delicately. As a result, a certain amount of sameness creeps in as every track has that “cocktail” feel to it. Cheron and Heaney even play the same model of guitar and have similar styles, so it will take a reading of the liner notes to know which one is soloing when. The recording was done over the course of a full year but it feels like these are live recordings. It’s done round-robin style, pretty much, with each soloist taking a turn. This was no doubt intentional, given the title.
This is not to say that Interplay isn’t an interesting listen. Cheron is especially relaxed in her soloing. Heaney’s rhythm playing, meanwhile, excels so the match is a good one. The charts are well-executed and Nancy Anderson’s saxophone contributions are especially tasteful. She has a pleasing, mellow tone and the same relaxed approach as Cheron. Don Hansch performs on trumpet. As a soloist he sounds a bit tentative, as an ensemble player he grooves right along. The rhythm section is consistantly strong and the occasional bass solo by Ben Johnson helps break things up a little.
So while Interplay won’t exactly set your world on fire, it is a welcome addition to Madison’s excessively lean jazz canon.