It is quite insouciant to categorize jazz musicians as either composers or players. But jazz devotees sometimes typecast artists as writers or interpreters of music. With a mature talent such as composer/saxophonist Andrew Rathbun, categorizing him in one camp or the other is unwarranted.
With Where We Are Now, his tenth disc as leader, he displays his growing maturity as a player and more of his acclaimed talents as composer/arranger.
Like his last few discs, he sets aside his taste for poetry and vocalists to center the session on the music. That's not to say his writing isn't chock-full of versification. His "Son Suite" in four parts, written (of course) for his child, is a cohesive 26-minutes of music, showcasing both the writing and soloing. The mysterious opening gives way to a joyous music, Rathbun switching between the soprano and tenor saxophones to alter the mood. By the fourth section, bassist Johannes Weidenmuller's bowing is followed by a mallet solo from master percussionist Billy Hart's that reads like a fine verse.
As for the remainder of the tracks, Rathbun sequences some passionate playing on "Lament," and a bit more introspective fair on "A Stern." The latter composition features Rathbun's considerate soprano saxophone driven (always driven) by Hart. The vigorous "Lament" allows the players to stretch out, signaling the opportunity for guitarist Nate Radley to lay down some simple clean lines in response to Rathbun's plush tenor. Pianist George Colligan, a regular companion of Rathbun's, supplies the steady accompaniment here. His solo on the closing "No Longer" follows a concise tenor statement from the leader, and begins with one hand before graduating to a two-handed speed solo.
The music of Andrew Rathbun draws into the composition, but requires you to stay for the performance.
Personnel: Andrew Rathbun: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Nate Radley: guitar; George Colligan: piano; Johannes Weidenmuller: bass; Billy Hart: drums.