How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
A fine collection of warm and cool originals by a strong up-and-coming altoist. Travis Sullivan is an original voice on the horn with some really sharp ideas. His compositions often approach the edges of early-Ornette freedom while remaining accessible and comfortable. Possible hints of Tristano come and go, although Sullivan is certainly more open-minded and tasteful than many of the pianist’s surviving disciples. On the whole, Sullivan should be considered of his own accord and any potential influences set aside.
Guitarist Rez Abbasi pops up frequently on current jazz releases, and his flexible elegance is a fitting foil to Sullivan’s alto style. Abbasi possesses several gifts vital to jazz guitar: selectivity of tone, strong melodic sense, brave creativity (dig his wild turns a little way into “Newcastle Song”), and above all, the courtesy to stay out of the way when appropriate. Bassist Catherine Popper and drummer Ari Hoenig might as well be joined at the hip, so nicely do they fit together in the rhythmic scheme here. The players are eminently suited to the tunes, flowing as a piece on the gentler material like “End Game” or “Lost For Words”, jostling on the angular “Ding Dong!” (a nod to Lester Young?) and soulfully cool on the title track. “No Consequences” is a languid tango, “The Spazz” almost harmolodic in its structure and mood. Such variety makes for a consistently interesting program, interest which is compounded by the musicians’ bracing inventiveness. Sullivan’s fearless command of the horn, tempered by good discernment, sets him and this disc apart from the pack.
As We Speak is simply one of the best indie releases heard in the past year. And Travis Sullivan is most definitely an artist to watch in the coming days.
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Track Listing: As We Speak; Ding Dong!; No Consequence; Spanky
Personnel: Travis Sullivan: alto sax; Rez Abbasi, acoustic and electric guitars; Catherine Popper: bass; Ari Hoenig: drums.