Saxophinist David Binney and pianist Edward Simon have been playing and recording together a long time. The wonderful, accessible, and deep Océanos reflects their close musical relationship. The duo consider this release to be a continuation of Afinidad (Red Records, 2001) in that the music displays the range of musical styles that each brings to the table.
Binney contributes four of the eight tracks and they manage to all be immediately recognizable as his work while also showing the influence of Simon, who adds three tunes. For his part, the Venezuelan pianist mixes his Latin roots with a distinct classicism in a manner reminiscent of Luis Perdomo.
The main quartet is filled out by bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade. Together they bring a brilliantly vibrant bottom and rhythmic intensity to the music, creating a very tight, unique sound.
Of the guest musicians, the standout is vocalist Luciana Souza, whose pure, crystalline voice blends perfectly with any instrument with which she sings a unison line, adding a sensuousness to the proceedings. Guitarist Adam Rogers plays some fine guitar and trumpeter Shane Endsley adds a haunting solo to the abstract Colley track "Amnesia," while the other brass are used to fill out the harmony occasionally.
The strengths of the album are made immediately apparent by the first two tracks, "We Dream Oceans" and "Impossible Question." Both have a Latin feel without making it overt, and create very strong grooves and memorable melodies that strongly hook the listener into the world of the CD.
"We Dream Oceans" is almost prototypical Binney in the way the melody floats over the bubbling groove and strong vamp. Blade is terrific in the way he maintains the strong pulse while constantly changing his patterns. Simon and Colley together set up the vamp, and yet when Simon solos it is quite abstract, as he plays outside the rhythmic pulse. Extremely infectious, the tune is expertly arranged and quite dramatic.
If "We Dream Oceans" shows Simon's influence on Binney, "Impossible Question" exposes the reverse. Starting out with an arpeggiated harmonic progression, a melody that simultaneously has echoes of Binney and Brazil is played by the piano and sung by Souza in unison. Blade and Colley are all energy as the first section's tension rises, while subsequent sections rise and fall. Here, as on the first track, the music manages to be very deep, but also entertaining as body and mind are both fed.
With six other tracks that are each just as engaging as the first two, Océanos falls into the sweet spot that makes jazz so enjoyable for so many reasons.