The cool thing about liner notes is they contain clues about other places to look for great music. For example, cast members of Joel Harrison's flame-throwing Urban Myths (HighNote, 2009) have their own fish to fry: keyboardist Daniel Kelly gave the piano trio format a good swift kick with Emerge (Brooklyn Jazz Underground, 2009), and now altoist David Binney has cooked up the phenomenal Third Occasion.
Evoking classical theatre, a Greek chorus appears first with "Introdução," a portent of things to come. The chorus is actually four horn players: Ambrose Akinmusire, Brad Mason, Corey King, and Andy Hunter. Binney uses them to add weight and texture to the proceedings. While John Scofield essentially did the same thing on This Meets That (Emarcy, 2007), Binney's frugal use makes his chorus seem more like an essential element and less like a device.
"Introdução" precedes the title tracka serpentine composition that starts and ends in a peaceful place, though the track's arc is anything but serene. Keyboardist Craig Taborn counters Binney's piping melody while contributing to bassist Scott Colley's throbbing foundation. Fans of Taborn's electric work may be initially disappointed with this all-acoustic performance, but that feeling should disappear by the middle of his first solo, as Taborn's piano effortlessly rises to Binney's technical and spiritual radiance.
Brian Blade's drums crackle with color and light, increasing when Blade and Colley start to counter each other. When the chorus enters in the middle section, the effect is almost symphonic, like a church organ in a Bach concerto where the melody becomes more informal, more ingrained. From there, Binney launches a simple solo that methodically acquires layer-upon-layer of passion, until his alto is screaming in agony, ecstasy, or both.
The title track's construction mirrors the rest of Third Occasion. All the pieces have measured beginnings that develop into more complex structures. "This Naked Sunday" reveals a protagonist on a day of reckoning with nowhere to hide, while "Blood of Cities" examines the loss portion of the urban equation. "Squares and Palaces" may have Binney's name on it, but the epic work feels like a group exploration, with each player buried deep in the moment.
"Here is All the Love I Have" is Binney's crowning achievement. His protagonistmystified at a rejection he never expecteddisplays all the emotions that come with the denial of something that's been deemed both precious and necessary. In the midst of Binney's tortured closing solo, the chorus plays the sonorous figure from " Introdução," adding even more intensity to the protagonist's grief. The figure is repeated again on "End," but rather than being superfluous, it's actually a reminder of the fervor that came before.
It's touches like this that show the attention inherent in Binney's creative process. The music and performances on Third Occasion are undeniably great; the depth of thought, however, is even greater.
Personnel: David Binney: alto sax; Craig Taborn: acoustic piano; Scott Colley: acoustic bass; Brian Blade: drums; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Brad Mason: trumpet, flugelhorn; Corey King: trombone; Andy Hunter: trombone.