As We Know It
, tenor saxophonist Brian Patneaude's third album following Variations
(WEPA, 2003) and Distance
(WEPA, 2005), is a wonderful album filled with memorable tunes that stick in the mind, played with a joy that is infectious.
By this time, Patneaude and his quartet is a brand in the best sense of the word. The band is remarkably stable; other than bassist Mike DelPrete replacing Ryan Lucas, guitarist George Muscatello, drummer Danny Wechtel and keyboardist Dave Payette are all back from Distance
. Patneaude is the compositional engine, writing for the band and its personality and getting feedback from musicians on the same wavelength.
So what if John Zorn
, a leader in the New York City downtown avant-garde scene, got a MacArthur "Genius" Award in 2006? Jazz has a big tent and supports music from many quarters. Although Patneaude's music is not as head scratching as Zorn's, it is finely crafted and highly melodic.
The emotional directness of As We Know It
is part of its appeal, and the lower level of abstraction is balanced by a well-honed sense of when to throw in the musical curve ball and thwart the musical expectations that have been set up.
Balance is everything for Patneaude. Each tune has its own emotion or mood that is developed by integrating the melody and its structure, the harmony that supports it, but most importantly by the arrangement. Patneaude and the band are masters of telling a story.
The solos, whether by Patneaude, Muscatello or Payette (who plays on all tracks except "Simple Truth") are integrated into the storyline and tread that fine line between blowing and creating a musical argument with an exposition, development and resolution. All good solos do this to some degree, but the band's personality, developed over time, virtually forces each soloist to be economical and direct.
This band's music sits well toward the easier listening end of the jazz spectrum, but that emphatically does not mean that it should be labeled smooth jazz. The positioning is merely an indication of how directly accessible it is, and how complication is balanced against simplicity.
Beware that the melodic hooks on almost every track will almost certainly hang in the mind for days. Then again, so will the mood that the album creates, and this is quite welcome in these troubled times.
Personnel: Brian Patneaude: tenor saxophone; George Muscatello: guitar; Mike DelPrete: bass; Danny Whelchel: drums; Dave Payette: Fender Rhodes (1-3, 5, 6).