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Trumpeter and composer Jason Palmer cares intensely about jazz and his place within its musical world. He's working hard to find his own voice, and represents one of the young players who has gone through the mentoring process, in this case, with saxophonist Greg Osby.
Songbook's pieces are all written by Palmer, and played by Osby (alto saxophone), Ravi Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Warren Wolfe (vibes), Leo Genovese (piano, Fender Rhodes), Matt Brewer (bass) and Tommy Crane (drums). The arrangements are adventurous and balance the needs of structure versus improvisation.
The music would have to be called mainstream, particularly from the rhythmic and harmonic viewpoint. However, while the connection to traditional jazz is perfectly clear (more so in some pieces than others), the feeling is more of acknowledgment rather than obeisance.
The term "mainstream" describes the playing of Swing Era, big band musicians in the bebop era. For whatever reason, they could or would not jump on the bandwagon of the "new thing," (primarily meaning the rhythmic and harmonic innovations) but rather took what they wanted from bebop as extensions to their basic swing style. The more original players, like Lester Young, remained original, and influenced many later players.
It is in this manner that Songbook can be heard. Palmer has a gift for melody and he's very sure of his playing, which gives the sense of improvisation-that the notes he's currently playing formed in his mind only a moment before. The interest comes in how his lines evolve, rather than guessing his next move.
Both Osby and Coltrane are of the generation prior to Palmer's and it shows in their playing. While respecting the vibe and harmonic conception of Palmer's music, their experience is displayed by their rhythmic freedom and unconventional phrasing.
Of the players of Palmer's generation, Genovese stands out. He makes the Rhodes sound natural as he pushes the musical envelope, sounding fresh and exciting on both piano and keyboards.
The musical unpredictability of the opening tune, "Priest Lake"originally written as a suite and presented here in compressed formoffers a hint of where Palmer might be heading, while only parts of the rhythmically complex "Checkmate" follow suit. The ballad, "One For J Mac" (dedicated to Jackie McLean) is flat out beautiful. Other tunes fall back on the tried-and-true unison-head/solo(s)/recap format of the hard bop era, pulling the music backwards.
With the release of Songbook, Palmer presents himself as a talented and ambitious player who is well worth watching.
Track Listing: Priest Lake; Found It; Laid Up; Checkmate; One For J Mac; In A Certain Way; The Shadowboxer; Hoop-Ti-Du; Will There Ever Be Employment For The Exonerated People.
Personnel: Jason Palmer: trumpet; Greg Osby: alto saxophone; Ravi Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Warren Wolf: vibes; Leo Genovese: Fender Rhodes, piano; Matt Brewer: bass; Tommy Crane: drums.