The jazz artistry of Pete Robbins’ new recording Centric unfolds as a cool, intelligent, and modern soundscape. With a warm and lyrical sound from his alto saxophone, Robbins reveals a voice that is well beyond his years. Comparisons can be made to any musician, but when listening to Robbins, an early Wayne Shorter comes to mind in terms of phrasing and stylization. With keen writing and arranging skills, combined with a quintet of tight musicians, Centric is a stand-out recording.
With roots in the Boston jazz scene to gigs in Copenhagen, Robbins now resides in the ever-fertile jazz melting pot of New York. His experience and exposure to a variety of music styles plays heavily on the recording. From rock to experimental jazz, the music takes on an interesting aura of free identification. This is not your normal cup of jazz tea. The eight original compositions on Centric are mixed with odd tempos and patterns that are both challenging and entertaining.
The title composition, “Centric,” starts the recording off in a mellow and swinging tempo with equally inviting solos from Robbins, George Garzone on tenor, and Mike Gamble on guitar. The next selections features the odd tempo burner called “Screwgun” which features a unique guitar overdub solo, held together by a strong rhythm section and snaking voices from the tenor and alto saxophones. Robbins’ choice of musicians is key to the strength of the recording. George Garzone’s powerful and angular tenor lines are a nice contrast to Robbins’ throaty, yet smooth voice. Garzone reveals a highly skilled tenor saxophonist who can hold his own among the best. Pete Zimmer brings skilled drumming to the selections and shines on the hypnotic “Somnambulist” which features outstanding solos from Robbins and bassist Chis Van Voorst, in a trio setting. The added bonus of Mike Gamble on guitar adds everything from hard rock with fret board tapping distorted solos, on the power composition “Hone”, to odd pedal effects on “Swimthere”. His solos are out of the ordinary and work well in the context of Robbins’ arrangements. With dynamic music that should not be easily categorized. The musicians perform a seamless exercise in the mode of free expression that is enjoyable and familiar. All of this is realized by the vision and individuality of Pete Robbins that continues to show that jazz is alive and well in the new millennia. Recommended.