Rich Pellegrin Quintet: Three-Part Odyssey (2011)
What a strange, compelling, often circuitous trip Three-Part Odyssey is. Pianist/composer/bandleader Rich Pellegrin has collected a youthful quintet of Seattle's boldest and most energetic musicians for his debut CD73 minutes of audacious grooves inside a set of freewheeling compositions that showcase each band member's individual virtuosic prowess without abandoning the collective mood.
Along with the leader, three of the quintet's members contribute to the songwriting, starting off with trumpeter R. Scott Morning's labyrinthine "Part 1: Nothing Comes To Mind," a 12-minute journey within the CD's larger odyssey that begins sounding like a dark-hued and slightly warped vehicle that trumpeter Lee Morgan might have used. Tangy unison horns break into interwoven lines that give way to bassist Evan Flory-Barnes' hypnotic groove. Then Pellegrin comes in for an extended trio segment that shifts from robotic interludes to brightly melodic passages, evolving toward freedom. The groove returns, leading into tenor saxophonist Neil Welch's solo slot, initially smoldering over Flory-Barnes' bass and inside the rumble and bounce of Christopher Icasiano's drums. Saxophone momentum builds, and trumpet and sax squabble over Pellegrin's Cecil Taylor-like free flights.
Flory-Barnes' contemplative ballad, "Distant, Distorted, You," showcases a lucid saxophone/trumpet conversation over Pellegrin's repeated, machine-like chords. Morning's "Obtusity" closes out the first part of Three Part Odyssey, the trumpeter blowing relaxed, elastic lines over the rhythm section's roiling turbulence before he cranks things into an atmosphere of agitation, biting off short, choppy,razor-sharp notes that fly out over the edge.
When a jazz quintet is composed of young players tagged as "forward-looking," that often means musicians trying to sound like trumpeter Miles Davis' second great quintet. It's a trap that Pellegrin and his band avoid, with a soundwith its multiple songwriting voicesthat's remarkably original, the playing often fierce and stormy, at other times restrained and unabashedly beautiful. Pellegrin seems to have multiple influences, displaying at times the density and drive and penchant for repetition of pianist McCoy Tyner, elsewhere sounding free and unpredictable, like no one but himself on this superb debut.
Track Listing: Part 1: Nothing Comes To Mind; Distant, Distorted, You; Obtusity. Part 2: Breathe; Pastiche; Piano Phase. Part 3: Marruecos; Maze.
Personnel: Rich Pellegrin: piano; R. Scott Morning: trumpet, flugelhorn; Neil Welch: tenor saxophone; Evan Flory-Barnes: bass; Chris Icasiano: drums.