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First Move, Aaron Seeber’s appropriately named debut as leader, captures the respected Washington, D.C., drummer and his quintet during a concert from October 2021. And what a quintet it is, featuring four outstanding musicians with whom he has previously performed and/or recorded: vibraphonist Warren Wolf, alto saxophonist Tim Green, pianist Sullivan Fortner and bassist Ugonna Okegwo. The band offers eight tunes, wisely chosen for variation, and collectively presents a compelling set of first-class jazz.
Seeber remains busy throughout, but never imposingly so. Nor does the album necessarily sound like a drummer’s gig; although it’s not a working group, the ensemble sounds seasoned and fully harmonious.
Okegwo only solos once, but he locks down every tune, giving the leader still more freedom. Green, at times, sounds marginally reserved, especially in the first half, but he soulfully states the melody of Charles Mingus’ ballad “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love” and becomes genuinely ebullient for the final two cuts: Mal Waldron’s “Fire Waltz” and Bird’s “Klactoveedsedstene.”
Fortner provides more wide-ranging, edgier statements: He can toss in Phineas Newborn-like mirrored runs and angular out-of-tempo lines that threaten to unravel a groove before threading it back in, but he also swings and comps with admirable finesse. (There’s a reason he’s the go-to accompanist for Cécile McClorin Salvant.) And Wolf, who seems joyously inspired in every setting, unleashes one highlight after another. Both muscular and lyrical, he proves once again why he’s among the finest mallet players of his generation.
The album opens with “Brandyn,” a boppy composition by drum master Al Foster, transitions to Benny Golson’s in-the-pocket “Out of the Past,” then covers Mulgrew Miller’s “Eleventh Hour,” featuring Seeber’s first solo, which he handles with modesty, maturity and spunk. Here and elsewhere, he’s not trying to snare attention; he’s creating and enhancing music of integrity. — Sascha Feinstein
Featured photo courtesy of Cellar Music Group.