Jason Rigby: Translucent Space (2006)
On the competitive New York scene, you've got to be more than just a strong player; you've got to have a concept. Woodwind multi-instrumentalist Jason Rigby's eclectic yet focused debut, Translucent Space, is one of those records that creeps up on you. Recorded live to two-track in just one day, the disc shows Rigby's broad textural reach and integration of a range of stylistic influences. This is one of the handful of records that seem to emerge out of nowhere each year, introducing an artist who demands to be followed closely.
Fresh Sound Records fans will know Rigby for his work on records by bassist Eivind Opsvik and pianist Kris Davis, as well as Soul Note guitarist Scott Dubois. But though Rigby's stylea blend of Wayne Shorter's cerebralism with middle-period Coltrane's modal explorationsmay be familiar, his strength as a composer is something altogether new.
The Phrygian modality of the hypnotic 7/4 "Proximo evokes a feeling of Northern Africa, with Mike Holober's Fender Rhodes and a second line of flute and twin clarinets supporting Rigby's spare theme with close voicings shifting in and out of dissonance. "Turquoise Turkish," on the other hand, is a fiery swinger that, just shy of four minutes, seems over before it begins. A rapid-fire head sets up powerful free bop solos from Rigby and Holober, before evolving into a free-for-all between the two, firmly supported by bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Mark Ferber.
There's a hint of bassist Dave Holland's groove-centricity on "Southampton [UK], but with Ferber's Tony Williams energy filtered through a Joey Baron-like slapdash support, the funk is implied, with nary a backbeat to be found. Still, Brown shares Holland's ability to maintain an unshakable pulse while remaining responsive. Compositionally, Rigbylike Hollandmanages to shift meters in ways that feel natural despite their conflicted nature: "Southampton may be in 4/4, but it feels somehow like it should be in 6/8.
Brown's compelling opening solo on the aptly titled tone poem "Atmospheric proves how underappreciated he is, despite a decades-long career working with artists including saxophonist Archie Shepp, pianist Don Pullen and singer Sheila Jordan. Perhaps it's as simple as his choice to be a sideman (he has only one record as a leader), but his ability to comfortably cross stylistic boundaries makes him a perfect choice for Rigby.
Brown and Holober sit out on the brief "114, where Rigby builds a surprisingly cogent sound from saxophone, drums and Rich Johnson's muted trumpet. If Translucent Space is a showcase for Rigby, it's equally one for Ferberwho, like Rigby, has emerged seemingly out of nowhere in the past few years, playing on an increasing number of sessions.
Elsewhere Rigby invokes the spirit of Coltrane ("Backandforthedness ), Paul Motian ("Green of Greens ) and Charles Lloyd ("Mumbai ), the latter piece featuring wood flute over an insistent bass/drums groove. In lesser hands Rigby's esoteric tastes might feel ambiguous, but the strength of Translucent Space lies in its coherence, intellect and accessibilitymaking it one of the year's most remarkable debuts.
Track Listing: Proximo; Turquoise Turkish; Southampton [UK]; Atmospheric; 114; Backandforthedness; Green of Greens; Mumbai; Christopher.
Personnel: Jason Rigby: tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, wood flute; Mike Holober: piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano; Cameron Brown: bass; Mark Ferber: drums, cymbals; Rich Johnson: trumpet; Lauren Riley: cello; Soo-Kyung Park: flute; Sam Sadigursky: clarinet; Jason Gillenwater: clarinet.