Darius Jones: Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) (2009)
Darius Jones sounds like it could be the name of an itinerant preacher or maybe a character in a Flannery O'Connor short story. Neither is actually that much of a stretch after hearing the alto saxophonist's debut as a leader, Man'ish Boy. Throughout run the concurrent threads of celebration and foreboding that exist in the rural south from whence Jones hails.
Readers may know Jones best for his work in the two-sax onslaught known as Little Women or his tenure in Cooper-Moore's trio. Little of the former's bombast is present in this disc while the latter is represented by its leader, who forms a third of Jones' trio. Filling out the lineup is drummer Rakalam Bob Moses, whose pedigree began in jazz-rock's earliest days with Larry Coryell and Gary Burton.
The album art, specially commissioned from Randal Wilcox, features a slyly-dressed three-headed figure, the titular Man'ish Boy. But the album's music is not tripartite in nature. Eight tunes, mostly written by Jones, with three free ostensible improvisations credited to the players, lurch wildly between two aesthetics: a sort of post-Coltrane exuberance and sparser, almost menacing forms. Omnipresent however is Jones' creamy tone, coffee spiked with whiskey during moments of stridency.
After a short opening convocation ("Roosevelt"), where Cooper-Moore's diddley-bow is almost Jimmy Garrison-like in its rumbling support, the trio shifts into the lengthy "Cry Out," built upon Cooper-Moore-as-pianist's booming left hand, a rollicking soundtrack to a speakeasy, including the inevitable chaotic police raid. "We are Unicorns," whatever that means, is a feature for alto sax and diddley-bow, ominous and primeval. "Meekness" is one of two lush ballads on the album, this one mixing cinematic piano with ecstatic alto cries. "Salty," "Chasin' the Ghost" and "Big Train Rollin'" (minus Cooper-Moore) can almost be taken together, an Ascension through Interstellar Space. "Forgive Me" reprises the feel of "Meekness," opening with a romantic piano intro and then wafting softly and slowly with rakishly off-key sax.
The album closes with silence and then, after several seconds, moves into a bonus track, the live-from-Roulette "Chaych," with bassist Adam Lane and drummer Jason Nazary (of Little Women). After almost 50 minutes of introspection with his mentors, this tune is extroverted, sleazy jazz-funk, the preacher landing among the sinners.
Track Listing: Roosevelt; Cry Out; We Are Unicorns; Meekness; Salty; Chasing The Ghost; Big Train Rollin'; Forgive Me; Chaych.
Personnel: Darius Jones: alto saxophone; Cooper-Moore: piano and diddley-bo; Rakalam Bob Moses: drums; Adam Lane: bass (9); Jason Nazary: drums (9).