A couple of spins of Ferenc Nemeth's Triumph reveals an artist with an ear for the big picture. The Hungarian-born drummer has assembled an all-star jazz quartet and slipped in some subtle woodwind section undercurrents on an all-original outing focused on his personal life experiences, with titles like "Purpose," "Joy" and "Sorrow and Wishful Thinking." On smaller but more focused scale, Triumph's approach is similar to pianist Brad Mehldau
's Highway Rider (Nonesuch, 2010)a thematic set shaped like a symphony, with each piece leading into the next, interlocked and sectioned by interludes.
The music doesn't fall into an easy category. Certainly the tag "chamber jazz" could be applied, but there's a bit more muscle and punch here for that labela heft supplied mostly by the leader's aggressive, sometimes explosive drumming, but also by saxophonist Joshua Redman
Nemeth's adept use of rhythmic and harmonic layering is at the forefront of the tunes where the reed section kicks in, as on the lush, gorgeous and sweetly mournful "Longing," and the bright "Hope," with a quirky, swirling sound sharply punctuated by Nemeth's snare drum. A deft use of brief interludes also strengthens the set. "Interlude I" features Loueke's shimmering acoustic guitar, giving way to "Purpose"; "Interlude II" is a rollicking duet between Nemeth and Redman that opens up to the ebullient "Joy"; "Interlude III" is a spirited drum solo that sounds like a mad manwith a method to his madnessout in the kitchen makin' noise with the pots and pans; and "Interlude IV" showcases Werner's solemn beauty.
With this extraordinary quartet, the perfectly arranged woodwinds (and an occasional trumpet) and Barbara Togander's wordless, low-in the-mix vocals, Triumph has a lot going on. It takes several listens to take it all inthe beauty, joy, longing and hope of it alland it's time that is well-rewarded.