New York-based saxophonist Jason Rigby's sophomore effort, The Sage, is the follow-up to his much-heralded premier as a leader, Translucent Space (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2006). Featuring the core members of his debut's nonet, this forceful quintet session traverses the exploratory electro-acoustic sound world of early fusion, the muscularity of hard bop, and the spacious freedom of the avant-garde.
A robust tenor/soprano stylist in the classic Post-War mold of John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, Rigby also embraces the harmonically unfettered lyricism of Ornette Coleman. An improviser with a composer's mindset, his concise, linear statements extrapolate the formal constraints of a tune rather than just running the changes.
Rigby's quintet features a multi-generational array of stellar talent. His front-line foil, trumpeter Russ Johnson, is a leading light of the New York scene, an expressive and proficient artist of boundless creativity. Playing Fender Rhodes exclusively on this session, internationally renowned pianist Mike Holober conjures an evocative proto-fusion vibeequal parts crackling hard bop and shimmering introspection.
Veteran bassist Cameron Brown and ubiquitous drummer Gerald Cleaver reveal a deep-seated rapport as they ply propulsive rhythms with elasticity and precision. From the blistering tempo of "Crux" and the elliptical oscillations of "The Archer" to the scintillating accents of the atmospheric "Shift of Color," they supply a perfect balance of fluid timekeeping and vibrant shading with their intuitive interplay.
Rigby's expansive writing reveals lessons learned from past masters, without falling victim to dilettantish post-modernism. "Magenta" opens the album, knitting the gauzy harmonic freedom of Ornette Coleman's classic quartet to the pneumatic fury of the second Miles Davis quintet. The tightly wound "Crux" follows; careening at a furious tempo with tight horn arrangements and pithy solo excursions, it recalls the Jazz Messengers at their most visceral and adventurous.
"Shift of Color" offers a melancholy respite, casting mellifluous flute, muted horn, and atmospheric Rhodes washes adrift over delicate percussive accents before the entrance of the dramatic title tracka coiled anthem riding a rippling undercurrent of angular funk. "Slip" continues the Milesian thread, with sinuous soprano and muted trumpet navigating a funky bass ostinato, further echoing the Dark Prince's seminal fusion experiments.
"The Archer" is a kaleidoscopic tour-de-force, brimming with shifting tempo displacements and effusive solo statements, including plunger-muted brass smears, circuitous tenor fragments, and spidery Rhodes musings. Demonstrating their dynamic versatility, the quintet ends the album on a tender, lyrical note with "Jealous Moon," an effervescent tone poem.
The Sage is an exceptional sophomore effort from a young artist on the rise; Jason Rigby is a name to watch.
Personnel: Jason Rigby: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute; Russ Johnson: trumpet; Mike Holober: Fender Rhodes; Cameron Brown: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.