How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The debut recording, Walls Red, by Brooklyn bassist Josh Myers, affirms that while modern jazz covers a wide spectrum of influences, it's always a positive when young artists develop their own ideas. Like many striving in this challenging and diverse music environment, Myers' playing is panoptic: dabbling in nearly a dozen projectsmainstream, experimental and even Klezmer-rock, as well as regular gigs with notables such as drummer Gerald Cleaver.
These influences become irrelevant because the recording resonates with Myers' own unique perspective. One that involves a progressive quintet(saxophonists Brian Scherman and Heath Walton, pianist Jonathan Anderson and drummer Jordan Perlson)delivering music that contains heady improvisation, intricate compositions and a few other surprises.
As a bassist, Myers effectively "supplies the lows" with a deep tone and emotive fret-work but unlike the usual "It's my debut, hear me play" release, the recording's strength lies in his inventive writing. This is heard in the stealthy twists of "Wendell" with Myers' bass fronting a melodious horn arrangement that morphs into multiple tempo changes, undulating voices and abstract solos reaching a crescendo. It all works into a coherent progression of layered and evolving music.
The fascination with "changing ideas" lies at the center of the music. The title track is informed of both the blues and classical music where Anderson's piano travels across both worlds with ease. "Seven Circles" flows through a hip hop backbeat, funky horns, a solitude piano solo, then back to the original vamp now marked with reverberated bass and Perlson's torrent of drums.
The surprises come not only in shifting ideas but also in some clever post-production magic by sound designer Dan Venne. Whether subtle or overt, the use of electronic effects add color and dimension sampled voice work on "Playin uh," echoing synths on "Rain Stones" and the inquisitive instrument effects on the groovalicious "Lumberjack Jack."
But the litmus test is how the quintet artfully expresses their unity. The harmony between Scherman (alto) and Walton (tenor) and their contrasting solos on "Mouth." Myers' guiding bass and Perlson's scintillating drums on the tranquil tone of "The Big Enough Umbrella." Or "Well," a cinematic jaunt that travels from calm to tempest, threaded by Anderson's engaging piano.
Josh Myers and his quintet are to be commended. Walls Red is a listening experience where the fundamentals of composition and improvisation are balanced with fresh ideas that are creative and thought provoking.
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