Like many of his compadres on the Spanish FSNT imprint, trumpeter Erik Jekabson sports not only playing chops but also writing and arranging acumen. The Berkeley, California native has spent the last five years in New York, where he's worked with the Illinois Jacquet and Woody Herman Big Bands, and the Howard Fishman Quartet.
"On The Move" begins with the leader's trumpet and Matt Otto's tenor weaving lushly around each other over swinging drums until acoustic bass and electric guitar provide a slightly overlapping, quickly alternating, great little two-note motif. The motif supports the melody, voiced in tandem by trumpet and tenor, setting up a walking bass section that slows through a lope under a stretched out melody line, back to the guitar-bass motif. Where walking bass should return, it drops out under Jekabson's first solo section, beginning with Latin allusion, progressing to bop illusion, hinting at reservoirs of facility only reservedly displayed.
Stabs of rhythm guitar facilitate the handoff to Otto, who picks up the ball with Turrentine-like grit and breathiness, effortlessly navigating the changes with just the right concentration of notes. Drummer Mark Ferber breaks it down under that returning motif, as bass man and producer Alex Cuadrado returns to drive the swing section of the melody home.
One of the world's finest handful of guitarists is along for this ride: Ben Monder. Here he plays, for him, the unusual role of master straight-ahead bop guitarist, something he does as well or better than any player today. These ears hear only Kurt Rosenwinkel and Adam Rogers as his generational peers in this milieu, but for Monder, bop forms comprise a mere solar system in his sweeping galaxy as a player - I'll leave the comparisons at that.
The title cut ideally lays Monder's brilliance bare. At first, horns dance under him, to which he reacts with complementary, never repeating, motifs. But when the horns drop out, Ben goes scintillatingly linear, to the point that even those familiar with his work will be pleasantly surprised. Here's a great example of yet another intriguing element of the contemporary jazz world; that is, when a player's participation in a date provides context that catalyzes revelation of optimum capabilities. In other words, Ben Monder all-too-rarely has taken opportunities to rip as cleanly and as liberally as he does here, and again on "Invigoration," first dancing sparsely before breaking into a full-on sprint over this new take on a classic, jazz-waltz composition.
There's a lot to delve into, including the Sketches of Spain evocations of "You Go to My Head," "The Rising" and "Farewell," the latter of which imparts a feeling of meditatively revolving in introspection. "Farewell" finds Monder following his instincts to create a new improvisation, a new song over an undulating single-note bass pulse.
Jekabson has handpicked a great unit to realize his considerable writing and arranging skills, turning in another winning FSNT debut- a provocative take on the jazz tradition, rooted in straight-ahead, elegant, small-group work.
Personnel: Erik Jekabson (tp), Matt Otto (ts), John Ellis (ts,bass clarinet, ocarina), Ben Monder (guitar), Alexis
Cuadrado (bass), Mark Ferber (drums,perc)