While the title track encapsulates the breadth of Mommaas’ stylistic perspective — from impulsive surges of rhythmic energy to contemplative meanderings — the saxophonist also finds refuge in less-taxing settings, as he does with the core trio and Juris on “Folksong.“ The piece’s yearning tone and unhurried gait are enlivened by Moreno’s fleshy cymbal work and Mommaas’ mood-framing dialogue with Juris and Radley. Mommaas’ tenure as a student of both Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman are evident in his measured dynamics and considered approach to soloing. However, the album’s distinctive edge traces to a mosaic of stylistic odds and ends found throughout his writing. — Mark Holston Steve Colson The Untarnished Dream (Silver Sphinx) A scandalously overlooked member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), pianist Steve Colson is about as hip as it gets. Blending bebop harmony, the bluesy soulfulness of hard bop, and a more avantgarde approach to rhythm and melody, he’s crafted an utterly personal style that is at once accessible, deeply felt and whip smart. Colson’s solo on “Circumstantial,” the opening track on The Untarnished Dream — his first album as a leader in five years — is full of lyrical invention bolstered by luxuriously rich bop chords. But the pianist rarely lets his lines come to rest or resolves them in expected ways. The music is restless, both familiar and fresh. His block chords bring “Maybe” to an exhilarating climax, a beloved gambit of pianists like Red Garland and Wynton Kelly. But again, Colson unhinges what he plays from convention. His lines are searching, and the chords build to a peak in a zigzag progression. Colson’s trio mates on this date — bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Andrew Cyrille — are mature, enormously joyful presences. Workman integrates the rhythmic, melodic and harmonic duties of the bass as well as anyone alive. Cyrille plays
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thrilling games of hide-and-seek with the beat, but he never forgets where he is. Singer Iqua Colson joins her husband’s trio on four of these nine tracks. Possessing a bell-like alto that’s strong and full of optimism, she’s a potent lyricist, as well. Songs such as “Triumph of the Outcasts, Coming” and “The Untarnished Dream” are as direct and clear as her voice, and she adds much to the music’s celebratory nature. — Ed Hazell Empirical Out ‘n’ In (Naim Jazz) Tribute discs tend to follow a familiar formula: An artist or group covers compositions written by or associated with an icon. But Empirical’s Out ‘n’ In, a salute to the late reed player Eric Dolphy, is a thornier proposition. Only two of these 11 tracks were actually penned by Dolphy, while the rest comprise originals inspired by his work or life. It’s a risky conceit that could easily have turned pedantic. Fortunately, the British Empirical crew, supplemented by bass clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Julian Siegel, places passion before intellectualism. In the process, they’ve made a record that can be enjoyed as both a Dolphy-inspired exploration and as a new generation’s take on classic post-bop stylings. “Out But In” introduces the core ensemble: alto saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, who delivers the bracing melody; vibraphonist Lewis Wright, whose mallet work is lush and inviting; double-bassist Farmer, the tune’s composer; and drummer Shaney Forbes, whose sense of time is eccentric yet evocative. This cut serves as a natural bridge to the Dolphy favorite “Hat & Beard,” replete with a witty, stepby-step structure that’s broadened to incorporate effervescent interplay between Wright and Siegel. These two also face off in the paired snippets “A Conversation” and “Another Conversation.” Elsewhere, “So He Left” saucily nods to Dolphy’s work with Charles Mingus; “A Bitter End for a Tender Giant” serves as
heartfelt eulogy; “Gazzelloni,” the other sample from the Dolphy catalog, offers plenty of the Wright stuff; and the finale, “Bowden Out,” starts slowly before blooming into an atmospheric noir. Ultimately, Out ‘n’ In tells us as much about Empirical as it does about Dolphy – which makes the album far more satisfying than the typical homage. — Michael Roberts Dana Reason Trio Revealed (Circumvention Music) Pianist Dana Reason spent formative years playing behind idiosyncratic artists such as trombonist George Lewis and trumpeter/reed man Joe McPhee. Her first jazz recording as a leader, the aptly titled Revealed, shines a spotlight on her highly original playing. A couple of avant-garde veterans, bassist Dominic Duval and drummer John Heward, round out Reason’s trio. However, this is not a traditional piano-trio disc, but rather a three-way improvisation, with Reason and Duval handling most of the solos and Heward adeptly supporting them in a distinctively arrhythmic way. The first two tracks, “Transition” and “Let’s Talk,” are spirited, free improvisations. Reason leads the trio well into atonal territory without sacrificing the overall jazz sensibilities of the music. On the former track, Duval stretches the melody’s limits with his solo turn. But no matter how far he travels from the main theme, Duval seamlessly returns to it at the end. Reason takes a long, bluesy solo on the latter track, matching the seasoned bassist in creativity. The title track, a quiet ballad, references some of Andrew Hill’s later work. Notes are used sparingly yet adequately, and silent pauses are as integral to the piece as are improvisations. The blues number that follows is heavily improvised and more “blue” in spirit than in actual construct. On a couple of the other tracks, both as leader and soloist, Reason returns to the modern-classical sound of some of her earlier sessions.