Jazz defies structure, poetry can harness it. Putting the two together requires an adept mind, an articulate skill and the vision to encapsulate the body of one within the free form of the other. When Andrew Rathbun takes on the poetry of Margaret Atwood, he gives it a new, and deserving, testament.
Rathbun studied the work of the celebrated Canadian writer in school. Here he uses two of her lesser-known works, "True Stories" and "Bluejays", bringing in Luciana Souza to give voice to the words. She articulates with distinct feeling, dipping into the nuances of the poems and bringing the words to life. While she is generally a straight-ahead singer she does delve, all too briefly, into scatting an intro.
Rathbun's compositions are multi-dimensional. He uses style easily, moving from hard bop tones to freer time signatures, the gamut defined by the cohesive playing of the quintet.
In the musical dye of his compositions, the three part "True Stories" takes the narrative from an open-ended freedom into bright flowing piano excursions that set the flow for the hard bop permutations of the tenor sax. The third segment has the trumpet add a warm glow, a perfect foil for the harder groove the tenor sax dips into. When the structure gets looser as it does on "She Who Chose", where Haskins and Colligan tread paths that twist and intersect, Rathbun comes in to peg the lines with a melodic stamp before it is taken out again and goes into free-for-all abstraction. At the end, it all comes together quite nicely indeed!
Personnel: Andrew Rathbun: Reeds; Lucian Souza: Voice; Taylor Haskins: Trumpet; George Colligan: Piano, Fender Rhodes; John Herbert: Bass; Jeff Hirshfield: Drums