A note to ECM label head Manfred Eicher: I've got a new artist for your stable. His name is Marc Mommaas, a Dutch tenor saxophonist living in NYC, and he's just released a fine album on Sunnyside, Global Motion
The album features the Global Motion Trio, including pianist Nikolaj Hess and bassist John Hebert, expanded to a quintet by the addition of drummer Tony Moreno and guitarist Rez Abbasi. The group creates a sound with affinities to much of ECM's European jazzan abstract, painterly quality, melodies that wind through twists and turns while retaining a folksy lilt, and an air of wistful melancholy.
Mommaas, who studied with Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman, is a musician of much promise; his tone is rich and rounded, with a bit of sandpaper rasp in feistier moments, and his compositions (all tunes on the album are his) are darkly appealing and well-constructed. The quintet can move from song-like melodies to free passages and back without a hitch, and their sympathetic playing provides a cohesion that distinguishes the album.
The opener, "One Way Only," is one of the best tunes, featuring a maze-like melody over an irregularly accented meter that periodically gives way to an agitated bridge played in unison by Mommaas and Hess. An ominous single-note rhythmic pattern provides a base for Moreno's drums to solo over, heightening the tension before the tune is brought home with a final set of changes. "Maktub" and "African FBI" add some Dave Holland-like world beat touches: Abbasi plays an electric sitar guitar (if you've heard Steely Dan's "Do It Again" you know the sound) on the former, which again features a torturous melody before settling into an elegant groove; and Moreno's African percussion duet with Mommaas on the latter is a highlight. Another is "3458," a memorable theme over shifting meters with some wonderful playing by Hess (a real find) followed by a remarkable sax solo where Mommaas begins as if awakened from a dream, becoming slowly more alert as his lines become sharper and more declamatory.
Like other ECM-style groups, this one sometimes dissolves into merely pleasant abstractions that fail to make a long-term impression: the first part of "Copenhagen Suite," for example. Nevertheless, this record establishes Mommaas as an artist to watch, and makes the case for this group to receive wider exposure. Your move, Herr Eicher?
Personnel: Marc Mommaas, tenor saxophone; Nikolaj Hess, piano; John Hebert, acoustic bass; Tony Moreno,
drums and percussion; Rez Abbasi, electric guitar, sitar