A crisp brass alarm announces the dawning of a new day in composer Patrick Zimmerli's The Book of Hours,
a musical cycle that proceeds through the seven medieval daily periods of worship. In place of spoken prayer, interspersed allusions to Coltrane's A Love Supreme
serve as sacred moments. Soprano saxophonist Zimmerli, guitarist Ben Monder, and the Belgian 10-piece ensemble Octurn turn in a sharp performance that is classical in its accuracy and postmodern in its soul.
"Dawn" presents each instrument arising in turn as piano, trumpet and guitar leisurely wipe sleep from their eyes in response to a peppy soprano sax. A melody arises in "Morning" with a breezy jazz trumpet giving way to full ensemble playing. As drums announce lunch at "Noon," baritone saxophonist and Octurn leader Bo Van Der Werf engages in an interesting repartee with the percussion.
This leads to an "Afternoon" delight where alto sax shines over quick complex rhythms. A slower mood, courtesy of a bluesy trombone, allows the shadows of "Dusk" to creep in until a drum roll kicks off a somewhat frantic "Night." Octurn's two drummers and two electric bassists drive an electric guitar jazz/rock fusion stops dead in its tracks for a delicate soprano sax piano duet, only to resurface as "Night" ends with a flourish. Harmonizing horns softly enter "Sleep" and continue with a slow exquisite soprano sax solo.
The Book of Hours features creative compositions that take advantage of the intriguing possibilities that two rhythm sections allow. Melodies are secondary as Zimmerli uses texture and tempo to mirror the day's changing rhythms. If there is a drawback here, it is that the music sometimes has a scripted feel. Such moments are few, and the recording is a well-crafted account of a diurnal ebb and flow.
Note: this review originally appeared in All About Jazz: New York .