How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Flag Day, from saxophonist Adam Kolker, exquisitely raises the standard of creative improvisation with its refreshingly cerebral musical explorations. Kolker is of the school that favors unhurried journeys through tunes. This allows the musicians to discover interesting musical nooks and crannies, expand on them and in the process create new music. Kolker wields an elegant instrument, whether it is his tenor, soprano, flute or clarinet, on these eight tunes. And he and the rest of this quartet forcefully remind that through keen reflection, introspection and inspection jazz can be stylistically powerful without post-bop frenetics in a kind of re-birth of the cool.
Both drummer Paul Motian and guitarist John Abercrombie are masters of this craft that plays "yin" to the "yang" of the typical blowing session. They appear here with former Andrew Hill bassist John Hebert and Kolker could not have picked better partners. It is surprising that someone has not thought to pair Abercrombie and Motian together more frequently because they click like a dream. Perhaps it is Abercrombie's association with drummer Jack DeJohnette or Motian's own associations with Bill Evans, but the pianist's legacy is evident.
Originals include "gNash," which is a free-formish opener; the title cut soprano sax showcase closer; the chamber-infused "Lies," that has Kolker exposing the beauty of clarinet and flute; the bluesy "In Or Out," and the lightly swinging "Only One." These contrast with deconstructions of Neil Young's "Don't Let It Bring You Down," Monk's "Played Twice" and Harold Arlen's "Last Night When We Were Young." All of these tunes, including the originals, seem to have begun somewhere else, with roots in disparate places. Kolker's tone, as he spins delicate webs, Abercrombie's inventive strumming, Motian's insight and intuition along with Hebert's phrasing bring them together into a cohesive sound that is as open as it is musical.
Track Listing: gNash; Don't Let It Bring You Down; Played Twice; Ties; Only One; Last Night When We Where Young; In Or Out; Flag Day.
Personnel: Adam Kolker: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet; John Abercrombie: guitar; John Hebert: bass; Paul Motian: drums.