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Jazz guitarist, producer, composer, arranger and band leader since the 70’s, Jay Messer has been leading his own ensembles, performing throughout New England, at West Coast Jazz Festivals and at performances in Paris. Studying with guitar masters Barry Galbraith, Herb Ellis, Attila Zoller and Tal Farlow, Jay developed a strong Jazz style of his own at a young age.
Jay Messer has recorded with the Marion Brown Quintet in NYC for Venus records and with The Paradise City Jazz Band, The Dagnello Quintet and John Norris as well as recordings for Jazz Improv Magazine. He has performed with many Jazz artists including Herb Ellis, Eddy Jones, Tom McClung, Ed Byrne, Steve McCraven, Benny Waters, Eddy Lock, among others. His recordings, a solo guitar CD “Sly Entrance” (2000) and with The Jay Messer Quintet a CD “Bayside” (2001) have received rave reviews from newspapers and international magazines including Jazz Improv and Cadence magazine. Jay’s most recent recordings are; his 2nd solo guitar CD titled “Concentration” released in October, 2010, and a new quintet CD titled “Sly EXIT’ released in August of 2011.In 2016 Jay relocated to Santa Rosa California, continues to compose, arrange and perform locally and in Paris.
Jay Messer performs high quality Jazz with a repertoire from the 1920’s forward to contemporary Jazz composers. His repertoire spans “Fats”Waller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, the Great American Song Book, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, & Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Jay Messer Quintet Liner Notes for Sly Exit
Jazz can be defined as improvised music that relies on structure. One might also point out jazz performance is, most often, by individuals in groups. Jazz tradition has figured in the evolution of the “modern” jazz quintet configuration of two horns and three rhythm (one brass, one reed, bass, drums, and piano, or less often, guitar.)
Jay Messer, the leader, main composer, and arranger of the quintet is a guitarist fluent in the hard and post-bop tradition. He solos and comps beautifully. The group’s individuals come together as a cohesive unit. It’s a working band in the tradition of quintets led by Cannonball Adderly, Miles Davis, Horace Silver, and Art Blakey. This quintet is comprised of long time associates flugelhornist Rob Faulkner, saxophone, flutes and Percussionist Paul Lieberman, and bassist Dave Santoro, and newer musical friend drummer Hamir Atwal.
The quintet’s material was all written or selected by Jay Messer to highlight the band members’ great musical gifts. Jay’s original tunes are accessible to even a casual listener and carry a deeper message to the aficionado. This largely unedited collection of complete takes in the studio, presented in a performance sequence, draws the listener into the best seat in the house.
Fine solos abound in each track, and the arrangements subtly utilize a variety of combinations. The opener, Step Lightly, a wonderful tune by Benny Golson with interludes and a “shout” section, features the tenor sax and flugelhorn combination. Estate becomes orchestral when tenor sax gives way to alto flute. The blend of flugelhorn and the deeper toned flute create an exquisite sound, dark and full. Dreamline,with tenor sax, is classic bop contrafax. The blend of horns and guitar suggests a larger dimension. Summertimerecasts the oft-played Gershwin standard in waltz time. Weepin’ is played at a burning tempo that seems very fast…until you hear the closing track. The rarely heard song I Keep Coming Back to Joe’s deserves to be better recognized and this instrumental version should certainly help. Monk’s Ride and Concentration are built on established chord changes, in the process becoming new tunes with familiar undertones. The closer, Sly Exit is really fast. The band tears it up with precision, but not at the expense of feeling.
This recording of a strong individual and group effort will pass the test of time and add greatly to the historic quintet tradition it so exemplifies. Listen…and enjoy!
Bill Goodwin, a member of a quintet himself for 37 years, also went to high school with Rob Faulkner, a friend and musician of great importance in his life to this day.
Bill Goodwin, a member and producer of the Phil Woods Quintet for 37 years
Jay Messer Solo Guitar CD "Concentration" Liner notes
The large cities of each coast are reputed to attract the highest level of jazz musicians, and it seems to be an endorsement of a player’s ability and seriousness to mention that one lives or has lived there. Granted, I can understand that perception when considering all of the great, well-known musicians found in those cities, along with the enormous competition. But I also know and encounter truly world-class, seasoned musicians in very unlikely geographic locations, often far from the metropolitan areas reputed to have the best. Just a few guitarist “for instances” would include my friends Fred Fried, Lennie Stelos, the late Jack Fragomeni, and Jay Messer, who currently hails from a small town in Western Massachusetts.
I can speak from experience when I say that solo guitar is a most challenging way to perform, making “Concentration” a most appropriate CD title. Not only is your musical train of thought and instrumental ability completely exposed, but there also is no interplay with other instruments to help “keep the ball in the air,” and the song’s momentum can never be allowed to waver. Everything you play is obvious. Jay has certainly met this challenge with imagination, sensitivity, and mastery. His choice of songs is excellent, and he expressed them with depth and beauty, including the wonderful Thelonious Monk ballad “Ruby, My Dear,” “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” by Charles Mingus, and “Detour Ahead” by Lou Carter, Herb Ellis, and John Frigo. A real surprise was hearing “The Birds and the Bees” by the late guitarist Attila Zoller played as a waltz. It reminded me that I first encountered Jay some years ago when we performed together at a birthday tribute concert for Attila, who was a mentor to both of us. I was impressed with him then, but in this recording Jay revealed to me yet another facet of his musicianship. I would like to add that he recorded solely on an acoustic archtop guitar, which added a woody, warm, and natural resonance to the music.
So I agree that you find many of the best jazz musicians residing in the large cities of both coasts. But, thanks to Jay Messer, not all of them.
(Boston-based jazz guitarist Mitch Seidman has performed throughout the U.S. and overseas, and his performances and recordings have included numerous renowned jazz musicians. He is also a Professor at Berklee College of Music and was a contributing editor to 20thCentury Guitar Magazine)
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