Darius Jones: Big Gurl (Smell My Dream) (2011)
In Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) (AUM Fidelity, 2009), alto saxophonist Darius Jones scored a stunning debut that placed the newcomer firmly on the avant jazz map. Since then, the reedman has put himself about town, tasting artistic success with drummers William Hooker, and Mike Pride's ensembles, collective Little Women and in duet with pianist Matthew Shipp. But now he returns in the company of the trio first heard on a bonus track from his inaugural outing, comprising bassist Adam Lane (who also pops up on the Hooker disc) and drummer Jason Nazary (from Little Women).
For Jones, Big Gurl (Smell My Dream) forms the second part of what he calls "the sonic tone poem of my life." Whereas the initial record was inspired by aspects of his childhood in rural Virginia, he now reflects on the sense of newfound freedom and self-discovery at university in Richmond. Another idiosyncratically stylized sleeve design by graphic artist Randal Wilcox signals that continuity, although it would be difficult to intuit any of the back story from the music. Suffice to say that the horn man once again showcases his special combination of talents as an adventurous improviser who also pens great tunes. With none of the cuts exceeding eight minutes, Jones makes his pitches succinct, but still allows time for judicious allotment of solo space which advances the musical argument, while avoiding the obvious.
In this, the saxophonist's selection of band mates pays dividends. Lane and Nazary are much more than just a rhythm section; at times they indulge in fantastical drum and bass interplay which evokes a reggae dub band. Lane's deep resonant tone anchors the ensemble, even as his subtle and unpredictable shifts keep the vamps vital, while Nazary essays a nervous energy which manifests in a stuttering busy beat, off-center phrasing and inventive coloration.
As leader. Jones develops his ideas excitingly, delivering impassioned invective in a hoarse throaty dialect. He utilizes the full range of his alto, from keening ululations to lowing textures, via controlled harmonics. Particularly notable is the way he builds tension towards the end of his statement on "E-Gaz," with see-sawing phrases which teeter on the edge of mimicking a police siren. Two further additions to the roll call of gorgeous widescreen ballads which so distinguished his debut stand out: "Michele Hearts Willie" entrances with searing intensity; while "I Wish I Had A Choice," which Jones has wryly introduced in concert as being about taking his musical path almost in spite of himself, soars on an aching melody line.
Elsewhere, "A Train" begins with an insistent phrase that recalls saxophonist Steve Lacy, before paying homage to Billy Strayhorn's "Take The 'A' Train," with the leader and Nazary trading fours, only regrouping for a boozy coda. Reprised from his first offeringif anything, with even more urgencythe hard-driving "Chasing The Ghost" further presses the case for Jones' sophomore effort to receive equal acclaim.
Track Listing: E-Gaz; Michele Hearts Willie; A Train; I Wish I Had A Choice; My Special "D"; Chasing The Ghost; Ol' Metal-Faced Bastard.
Personnel: Darius Jones: alto saxophone; Adam Lane: bass; Jason Nazary: drums.