It's been five years since British expat Will Vinson released his debut as a leader, It's For You (Sirocco, 2004), but the alto and soprano saxophonist has been anything but dormant. Working hard in the New York area with everyone from Mike Stern and Chris Potter to Geoffrey Keezer and Seamus Blake, Vinson's follow-up, Promises, may have been a long time in coming, but it demonstrates Vinson's palpable growth as a player but also, and perhaps more importantly, as a writer.
Vinson's playing continues to combine the more cerebral nature of Greg Osby with Potter's in-the-gut visceral approach, but five years down the road his own voice is emerging more confidently on this quintet session that features other up-and-comers including Aaron Parks, whose own Invisible Cinema (Blue Note, 2008) and work with trumpeter Terence Blanchard has catapulted the twenty-something pianist into high visibility. Ever inventive, Parks solos with the kind of confident sense of construction that supports his increasing acclaim, while acting as an empathic rhythm section partner with bassist Orlando le Fleming and drummer Rodney Green (Ari Hoenig replaces Green on the staggered funk of "Philos O' Fur.")
Vinson also enlists guitarist Lage Lund whoalong with Jonathan Kreisberg, Matt Stevens and Nate Reevesrepresents the next wave of guitarists behind Kurt Rosenwinkel, Adam Rogers and David Gilmore. Promises is a mainstream set of a decidedly modern bent, featuring eight Vinson compositions that lean largely to the acoustic and the complexinformed by the writing of Rosenwinkel, Potter, David Binney and Wayne Shorter. Still, Lund isn't afraid to pull out the occasional electronic trick, including some looping and reverse attack throughout the ever-shifting "Adventures of Bagpuss," which begins with simmering intensity and a high velocity theme doubled by Vinson and Lund before leading to a vibrant swing, only to cut to half-time for a strong solo from Vinson that ultimately begins an increasingly accelerating return to swing and the composition's knotty theme.
Even when Vinson moves into slower territory, it's hardly balladic, although it is lyrical in its own way. On "Rose Tint" he works again in tandem with Lund before a solo from Lund that, despite its wide intervallic leaps, distances him further from Rosenwinkel, who has become an almost too pervasive influence on younger guitarists. Vinson's warm tone on alto, his main axe, smoothes out the occasional jagged edges of his improvised lines while le Fleming and Green, ever empathic, maintain a smooth as silk cushion that's augmented by Parks' atmospheric voicings.
If It's For You was a pledge of intent, Promises is the delivery. With increased confidence as a player and writer, hopefully Vinson won't have to wait another five years to follow up to this fine album of modernistic mainstream jazz.
Personnel: Will Vinson: alto and soprano saxophones; Lage Lund: guitar; Aaron Parks: piano; Orlando le Fleming: bass; Rodney Green: drums (1, 2, 4-8); Ari Hoenig (3).