Inspiration for a work of art can be as varied and diverse as there are disciplines. Some artists embrace theoretical concepts, like form and abstraction, while others derive inspiration from tangible elements and events closely tied to their own personal experiences.
Alto saxophonist David Binney has repeatedly demonstrated an interest in the later, especially in relation to locale. His 1996 release, Cities and Desire (Criss Cross) was a sonic paean to the urban areas that hold great emotional significance for him. South (High Note, 2003) included a number of pieces titled after geographical locations, and various tunes appear throughout his discography dedicated to specific sites.
Third Occasion, Binney's newest release on his own Mythology Records continues this trend, from the picturesque travelogue photos that fill the liner art to song titles like "Squares and Palaces" and "Blood of Cities," culminating in a series of expansive tone poems that evoke the particulars of time and place.
A co-founding member of the mid-nineties fusion ensemble Lost Tribe and co-leader of the freewheeling Lan Xang quartet, Binney is no stranger to the edgier side of the music spectrum. This date generally eschews avant-garde gestures, unveiling a series of opulent compositions that resound with lush harmonies and sophisticated counterpoint, occasionally hitting peaks of cathartic release.
Binney tastefully augments his core quartet with a four piece brass section, adding a rich layer of tonal depth to these resonant works. Longstanding collaborators pianist Craig Taborn, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade offer subtly challenging inventions of their own on these verdant themes.
Possessing an enviable combination of soulful intensity and virtuosic dexterity, Binney maintains a forceful presence. But while his circuitous alto flights are infectiously enthralling, his real strength lies in his composing, which is as evocative as that of his former employers Gil Evans and Maria Schneider.
The album's longest cuts exemplify Binney's proficient writing. His fervid alto soars on the sublime title track, climaxing with a series of exclamatory arpeggios driven by Blade's roiling trap set work and rousing swells from the brass section. Supported by a buoyant melody and a brisk rubato pulse, the dynamic "Squares and Palaces" unfolds as a vibrant study in chiaroscuro. The leader's terse, oblique alto careens though the labyrinthine opening, contrasting with Taborn's prismatic piano refrains in the meditative finale.
The majestic "Here Is All The Love I Have" and introspective "Blood of Cities" are similarly extended works that resound with harmonic complexity and simmering passion. The former languorously ascends to stately heights of expressionism, led by the leader's lyrical alto, while the later is a compelling exploration of minor and major modes.
Binney's lavish compositions are elevated by the stellar interpretations of a veteran post-bop ensemble whose finely tuned interactive skills are themselves augmented by subtle brass accents, making Third Occasion one of Binney's most richly affecting and multi-layered recordings.
Personnel: David Binney: alto saxophone; Craig Taborn: piano; Scott Colley: acoustic bass; Brian Blade: drums; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Brad Mason: trumpet, flugelhorn; Corey King: trombone; Andy Hunter: trombone.