Wisconsin-born tenor saxophonist/composer Matt Olson has traveled 789 miles from his childhood home to his current home in South Carolina, where he teaches at Furman University. His original compositions here aim to capture influences from his upbringing, but the present is well-represented by compositions from five Furman University students (graduates and current students). The format is a tight, funky organ trio with two of Olson's band mates in the Unhinged Sextet, last heard from on Don't Blink (OA2 Records, 2017): organist Mike Kocour (who plays piano in the sextetone of the few contemporary keyboardists equally at home on both instruments) and drummer Dom Moio.
"Gyrate" begins the album with a muscular bop sound, and is the first of three student tunes that open the set. It is notable that Olson saves his own tunes for the middle of the program, bracketing them on either side with his students' work. "The Wishing Well" has a Latin groove and a thoughtful tone, as well as a form that brings out long, exploratory solos. "The Space Between" is the first ballad of the set, another trigger for beautiful solos from Kocour and Olson.
Olson's first original is "Alberta Clipper," a sprightly waltz. The title tune is a lyrical unaccompanied saxophone solo: fairly brief in running time, but rich in reflection. "Dance of the Dragonflies" features some bluesy dragonflies: funky, too. This trio could easily do an entire album of music like this.
The student compositions continue with two more ballads. "Kything" is another lovely ballad, while "Highway 538" takes the flame down really low (Moio uses brushes for it). The program switches gears dramatically to come to a rousing close with clarinetist Benny Goodman's swing classic "Stompin' at the Savoy," one last chance for the trio to do what they do best: swing like crazy. It also gives Moio a solo drum spotlight, in dialog with the rest of the band.
Gyrate; The Wishing Well; The Space Between; Alberta Clipper; 789 Miles; Dance of the Dragonflies; Kything;
Highway 538; Stompin' at the Savoy.
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