With few exceptions there are two types of debut albums in jazz. The first is a perfect and brilliant work that becomes the high point of the musician's career, whose later works are always compared to that first flash of brilliance. The second is a solid, interesting and intriguing work that, although far from perfect, serves as a first step towards a brilliant and multifaceted career. David Lackner's aptly titled debut, Chapter One, is most likely of the latter kind. This is good news, meaning increasingly fine recordings from this talented composer and saxophonist can be expected in the future.
Chapter One is sort of a diamond in the rough. It has many unique and exciting moments that, however, do not coalesce into a perfect whole. Lackner proves to be an accomplished composer with his own unique sound and, despite the repetition of some themes throughout his compositions, there remains enough variability to maintain interest. He is also a talented arranger, as heard on the two standards.
As a saxophonist he has almost a unique sound, with his soprano bearing the strong influence of Wayne Shorter and his alto more individual, showing hints of Sonny Criss and Art Pepper.
On this recording he has surrounded himself with talented and accomplished musicians and, although he is inexperienced as a leader, he is able to maintain his own with the likes of pianist Jim Ridl, who shines the most among his sidemen. Ridl leads the others in the rhythm section in providing solid support to the frontline of Lackner and, occasionally, trumpeter George Rabbai.
The improvised solos are interesting and logical despite not being very adventurous. Although far from a masterpiece, this is a solid debut by a talented new voice in jazz and hints to the beginning of a great career, from whom the second chapter will be eagerly anticipated.
Personnel: David Lackner: alto and soprano saxophone; George Rabbai: trumpet and flugelhorn; Jim Ridl: piano; Steve Varner: bass; Jim Miller: drums.