Jesse Van Ruller: Circles (2003)
“One” is a bright, sketchy tune (Andrew Hill comes to mind) that impatiently presses ahead to solos by each band member. Displaying a full, twangy sound, the guitarist’s lines hurtle forward almost without pause, running parallel to the constant ping of Stewart’s ride cymbal. Underlying dexterity similar to Van Ruller’s, Blake’s improvisation has a peevish quality, his high notes chafing against the composition’s structure and the rhythm section. For the most part Yahel fashions a solo out of smart melodic fragments and odd digressions. In the midst of a repeat of the head, Stewart blows over a vamp for about 30 seconds. Putting together flurries of strokes to every drum and cymbal, his calculated chaos swings in a rambling manner.
Ruller’s ballad “Here Comes The Sun” has the kind of melody that inspires lyric writers to make fresh observations about matters of the heart. Initially proceeding cautiously, as if fearful of disturbing the serenity, his solo gradually digs deeper, deftly maneuvering around Yahel’s brief chordal swells. Blake takes a more pronounced course, dramatically announcing his presence in the first few bars, then eventually working the upper register of the horn with beautifully executed cries that sound as if he’s searching for something that is, emotionally speaking, out of reach.
The recording’s standout track, Blake’s “Black Dahlia,” is a crafty, quasi-funk concoction (subtly driven by Stewart’s abridged bugaloo beat) that sports a hummable melody, and regularly evolving into straight jazz time. At first seeming oblivious to Stewart’s supple bursts of energy, Blake constructs another stunning solo, playing off of the drummer’s inflections, and progressively generating a density that becomes nearly claustrophobic. Expertly riding the straight-ahead swing of the organ and drums, Van Ruller sounds positively bubbly, at first playing brief, economic phrases, then stretching out, integrating pregnant pauses into several brisk, climactic passages.
Track Listing: 1. One; 2. Circles; 3. Here Comes The Sun; 4. Black Dahlia; 5. 33 Waltz; 6. Zoab; 7. Gone With The Wind; 8. Secret Champ.
Personnel: Jesse Van Ruller--guitar; Seamus Blake--tenor sax; Sam Yahel--Hammond B-3 organ; Bill Stewart-- drums.
Record Label: Criss Cross