Outer Bridge is the first release from the Steve Hudson Quintet. Their music is hard to categorize because, as their website says, "their original music aims to warp and fuse various styles of musicjazz, rock, Indian music, classical, funkinto something that inspires through deep grooves and searching improvisation." Hudson extends this, saying, "SHQ was created to be a vehicle for experimenting with different musical ideas. We wanted to create an ego-free environment where we could try out different concepts and see what worked. The music on the album is a gumbo of different influences."
The music varies in style from track to track, ranging from evocations of Mingus to an extended blues in an odd meter, to a ballad that moves through different meters, to one of the most unique takes on Debussy and whole tone scales that I have ever heard. But added to this is the fact that the music within each track rarely stays put in one place for too long.
This music is exceedingly original yet accessible, and I respond very strongly to it. If any reader out there is familiar with Loren Stillman's "How Sweet It Is," you will know what I mean. Despite being undescribable in a single word, the music has an overall vibe to it that perhaps has something to with Indian music, in that there is a certain timelessness about it. The images that come to mind are "flying over water on a dark moonlit night"wide open spaces where nothing is rushed, peace and calm coexist with interjections, and yet many times a killer groove kicks in. If jazz is "the sound of surprise," then this is it!
The players themselves have distinctive voices. Mark DeJong's alto sax tone has been honed to be almost pure sound with almost no reediness. Buckelew's soprano sax is also light and has none of that nasal sound, while his bass clarinet feels totally under control, plus his "In the Moonlit Candlelight" is a very memorable melody. Hudson is the nominal leader (the group is really a cooperative), but he stays in the background for the most part, carefully choosing the voicing of his chords or notes of his solos. Noordzy and Freeman on bass and drums respectively provide the backbone, but are also light and responsive as the music demands.
Outer Bridge will definitely reward multiple listens; there is so much going on here that something new will pop up each time. Hudson and company have created music that is memorable and will stay with you a long time, and it will surely attract listeners who have come to jazz from many different directions.
Personnel: Stephen Hudson: piano, wurlitzer; Michael Noordzy: bass; David Freeman: drums,
percussion; Mark DeJong: alto saxophone; Tom Buckelew: bass clarinet, soprano