Artist: Jonathan Ng
Album: The Sphynx
Release Date: 1.13.20 93
There’s a swinging jazz party going on over at The Sphynx, where violinist and bandleader Jonathan Ng is holding court like it’s the 1930s or ‘40s again. Exuding a warm, vintage glow, the jumping and jiving new six-song EP from Ng and company resurrects the old-timey jazz of Django Reinhardt and Count Basie with a fresh, modern perspective and small-group clockwork and cohesion. Not a scintilla of authenticity was sacrificed in the process, however.
Opening with the lively, up-tempo title track, the lone Ng composition here, The Sphynx—Ng’s sophomore effort—always seems to be in a good mood, grooving irresistibly as guitarist Luca Pino, pianist Chris Dawson, upright bassist Seth Ford-Young, drummer Josh Collazo and tenor saxophonist Albert Alva fall in easily together with Ng, the tight sextet swinging and gamboling about with nimble instrumental guile and confidence. Exuberant and bustling with activity, their mellow version of Erskine Hawkins’ “Gin Mill Special” hops to it rhythmically, splashing retro country-and-western charm all over its stylish, jazz tuxedo. They sashay their way through Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust,” slowly swaying in its summery twilight and wistfully romantic atmosphere as The Sphynx winds down, sending everyone home a little early.
Before closing time, gentle jabs prod and push their sly reworking of Chu Berry’s “Maelstrom,” while their swaggering and shuffling, bluesy take on Ray Charles’ “Rockhouse Part 1 & 2” rumbles and rolls into a bittersweet moment of liquid electric guitar reflection. Eschewing bombast in favor of graceful movement, everyone takes economical and interesting solos that are executed with elegant chops and cheery vitality, never overstaying their welcome as violin-saxophone harmonies walk arm in arm throughout in perfect synchronicity.
Arteries of instrumental traffic flow this way and that and never get congested, and Ng plays with such unabashed joy and precision, quickly dancing and darting here and there with festive buoyancy and brightness. If given an invite to Ng’s next soiree, be sure to RSVP immediately.