Troy Roberts – Tales and Tones (Inner Circle Music)
Although New York-based, Australian-born saxophonist Troy Roberts isn’t exactly a grizzled jazz veteran, Tales and Tones marks his seventh recording as a leader, and his experience shows. His quartet features three of the finest players on the current jazz scene: pianist Silvano Monasterios, acoustic bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. But rather than shying away from the challenge presented by such accompanists, Roberts meets it head-on, responding to their impressive performances with a display of talent that seems to be growing exponentially.
Take for example “Mr. Pinononnk,” a Roberts composition inexplicably stashed toward the back end of the album. Hurst echoes the deliberate Monasterios chording that anchors the tune with a resounding depth of feeling. Meanwhile, Watts chops up the beats behind a seemingly simple Roberts melody that builds into a contrapuntal juggernaut so vivid that listeners can practically see the sweat dripping from the musicians’ brows. No wonder Roberts follows this workout with “Boozy Bluesy,” which is introduced by a snippet of laughter that sets the stage for the aural party that follows.
Other original tunes are true to tradition without being in thrall to it. “Decoration” provides a sprightly showcase for Roberts’ alto and features Monasterios at his most swinging. “Trams” travels along an ardent Hurst bass line that inspires some of Watts’ most energetic tom work, while “Pickapoppy” showcases Roberts at his most lyrical.
Roberts also tackles a trio of covers, including “Rivera Mountain,” a lush ballad penned by John Sangster, an important figure in Australian jazz; and the vibrant Bernie Miller chestnut “Bernie’s Tune.” But most surprising is the foursome’s take on Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train.” A chugging, I-think-I-can lead-in, with shifting tempos en route, brings new life to the venerable number and marks another noteworthy step in Roberts’ artistic development.
— Michael Roberts
For more information, go to https://troyroberts.com/