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Track listing:

1. Barely Blues
2. The Way
3. I’m Tired
4. Baby Steps
5. Morning in Morocco
6. Park Avenue
7. Creature of Habit
8. Noche Azul
9. Lock 17
10. Park Avenue (extended version)

TRACKS·1,2, 6,7, 9)
Tim Olsen (piano)
Dylan Canterbury (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Eric Walentowicz (alto/tenor)
Lou Smaldone (bass)
Rick Rosoff (drums)
(TRACKS·3,4,5,8 10)
Tim Olsen (piano)
Dylan Canterbury (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Eric Walentowicz (alto/tenor)
Rick Rosoff (trombone)
Pete Toigo (bass)
Pete Sweeney (drums)

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Tim Olsen

Creature of Habit (Planet Arts Records)

by Tom Pierce

Despite Tim Olsen’s extensive career as pianist, composer-arranger, trumpeter and educator, this invigorating and diverse CD of 9 striking originals represents his debut recording, under his own name. “Mainstream with an Edge” is how he accurately describes his music in his own concise, witty and informative liner notes of his quintet/sextet’s just released CD, the exceptional Creature of Habit.

The “Mainstream” aspect is neatly summarized in those notes as “my heart lies in melody (still singable, even if it’s a little jagged or asymmetrical), crunchy harmonies, and syncopated rhythms that groove in strongly identifiable ways”. The "Edge” aspect Olsen refers to partially derives from his exposure to and influence from all kinds of music, both from this country and travels abroad to Cuba, Brazil and South Africa.
The most pervasive style of this invigorating CD is primarily Bop/Post Bop, starting with the spirited uptempo opener, “Barely Blues” and ending with an extended version of my personal favorite, the captivating, Latin-based “Park Avenue”. But the recording features more than enough different tempos and moods, from an array of diverse sources and influences.

These sources and influences include the blues, film scores, John Coltrane, religious themes, Caribbean music and a strong under-current of rich, expansive big band voicing (although there are only 2-3 horns, with no over-dubbing used). I found this last aspect especially evident in the smoothly fluid sense of motion in the intoxicating ensemble work in “Morning in Morocco”, where Olsen says he used “Night in Tunisia” as a point of departure. Another fine example of both the pleasing ensemble work and also Olsen’s creativity in altering the tempo of a classic to develop a haunting new composition is his “Baby Steps”, a waltz inspired by Coltrane’s groundbreaking “Giant Steps”.

The fullness of the ensemble work is striking throughout – a significant tribute not only to the excellent players, but also Olsen’s well thought out arrangements. An intoxicating song benefitting from this is the gently compelling Caribbean “Noche Azul (Blue Night)”, with its irresistible melody and exciting solos by Eric Walentowicz, Olsen, Dylan Canterbury on flugelhorn and bassist Pete Toigo. Speaking of that last musician, commendations are in order to both the sound engineering and resonantly grooving bass work of both Toigo and Lou Smaldone, that supplies a consistently firm bottom for the soloists and ensembles.

Tim Olsen has clearly plunged very deeply and effectively into his broad well of musical experiences and influences to construct this pleasantly distinctive debut recording, featuring such expressively strong players.

Tom Pierce has had a burning passion for Jazz for over 50 years, initiated and fueled by seeing live in New York City, starting in the early 1960's, virtually every major artist still performing. He's been very happily living in Guilderland since 2001, as an active retiree sharing his love of music by writing online reviews for a number of web sites, preparing DVD presentations to various groups, co-Hosting Radio programs showcasing his favorite artists and busily supporting A Place for Jazz in a variety of ways.