The New Standard Quintet, which is comprised of leader-saxophonist Ken Partyka, guitarist Pat Fleming, keyboardist Tom Vaitsas, bassist Curt Bley and drummer Rick Vitek, is a Chicago-based band originally formed to rework old standards and transform offbeat pop tunes into jazz. Over time it has evolved and, on The Many Faces, the group puts the focus on group originals. Although their new CD is named after one of their tunes, "The Many Faces" could be used to describe the group's versatility. Throughout the nine songs that they perform on this CD (four by Partyka and five by Fleming), the New Standard Quintet sounds quite at home performing in a wide variety of styles, and their blend during ensembles is consistently impressive.
The Many Faces opens with "The Melbourne Method," a passionate jazz-fusion waltz that has strong forward momentum and fine solos by Partyka on tenor, electric keyboardist Vaitsas and Fleming. In contrast, on "Mirror, Mirror" the band is acoustic, performing a soulful blues that is quirky and slightly reminiscent of Thelonious Monk. "A Voz Doce" has the quintet utilizing a Brazilian flavor with a Stan Getz feel. "Uncertainty Principle" is closer to fusion with Partyka's soprano and the rockish guitar of Fleming taking solo honors.
The title cut is a brooding medium-tempo ballad that features Partyka's tenor creating a quiet but heart-wrenching statement. "Only More So" has a catchy if somber theme, a catchy bass pattern, and some excellent post bop solos by Fleming and Vaitsas. "One Eyed Jacks" features the group exploring soul jazz with Partyka's tenor hinting at Stanley Turrentine and Vaitsas' organ adding the performance's atmosphere and drive. The boppish blues "In The Kitchen" is a swinger that gives the musicians an opportunity to stretch out. The Many Faces concludes with the relaxed "No More Words (Goodnight)."
Even with all of the overlapping styles and approaches that they utilize, the New Standard Quintet displays their own musical personality in each setting, showing their mastery of many modern jazz styles. Throughout The Many Faces, which is easily recommended, the group displays plenty of potential and succeeds at making each performance colorful.
Scott Yanow, author of ten books including Bebop, Trumpet Kings, The Jazz Singers and Jazz On Record 1917-76
New Standard Quintet lives up to its name, time and again, not by resurrecting age-old tracks but by trying to fashion its own rules for approaching original jazz music. Almost to a fault, the Chicago-based group gives the slip to the cliches that sink this age-old form, making The Many Faces a ride that’s as inviting as it is intriguing.
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I found it! Ladies and Gentlemen, here is the jazz release we have been waiting for. Straight ahead real jazz. It comes out of Chicago and might include the best saxophone/guitar duo since Stan Getz and Herb Ellis.
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You can tell by the rapport and intimacy of this recording that the guys in The New Standard Quintet are committed to making seriously beautiful music together. This group is made up of some of Chicago’s finest musicians and is very cohesive with a distinct sound. There are shades and colors that show off different facets of this music's history. Comprised of original compositions by leader Ken Partyka and guitarist Pat Fleming, this CD displays some very beautiful, playful and thought provoking music. There is a maturity coming from within the band that shows a high level of musicianship and experience. I've known Ken Partyka for many years and have never heard him sound better or be more in control on all his saxophones; great sound and lovely ideas. What I didn't know was what a wonderful composer he is also! Pat on guitar is one of the bright lights in the Chicago jazz world as both a player and composer. Both Ken and Pat's originals are extremely melodic and memorable, which isn't so much in vogue these days in the current jazz world. It's really nice to hear strong melodies! Curt Bley sounds wonderful on both acoustic and electric bass and has shown these qualities in many different settings over the years. Drummer Rick Vitek shows why he's been in demand on the Chicago scene for a long time, displaying a great time feel and sensitivity in his playing. Tom Vaitsas is new to my ears but I look forward to hearing more from him in the future; great support and shadings. The essence of this music we call jazz, has always been about communication and interaction and this recording absolutely establishes that to the listener. I believe that this project is a labor of love by some very committed musicians. I hope there are more projects to follow, but for now, enjoy!!
- MARK COLBY Chicago 2011