Michael Bates says that as a jazz musician, he takes a punk attitude to things. If anything, that is a refreshing attitude. When it comes down to music, he achieves a fine balance. He has all the right ingredients: a jazz sensibility, an open approach to classical music, a tingly edginess, and a sense of adventure.
Bates has a band that helps him along in no uncertain terms. Reed specialist Quinsin Nachoff is exciting as he lays bare unusual vistas in his improvisation; Kevin Turcotte, one of the finest trumpeters around, slips compactly into the mould and brings his own vision into play; drummer Mark Timmermans adds textures and accents that broaden the palette. The main protagonist, of course, is Bates, whose writing gives the musicians the room to change shape and density.
Bates shows his ability to channel ideas into new directions, even as he respects the tradition, on "Prokofiev, which is based on the composer's Cello Sonata in C Major. His arco dwells on the melody, albeit briefly, the signal for Nachoff's clarinet. The pace is deliberate and warm as Turcotte comes in, his notes at first a soft wisp, but then more pronounced as the shift in trajectory begins. The playing field opens and the thrust becomes stronger as the saxophone projects tensile lines.
"The Prodigal is an evolving tune that never stays in one place. Movement is constant, from the gliding ensemble horns to the saxophone taking off in unfettered flight, before returning home and clasping the other instruments in conversation. A bristling tempo characterises "On Equilibrium. The shift of pace and pulse, the roll and tumble of the saxophone, the intense urgency of the bass, and then the airy, pliant lines of the trumpet, with a sting in its tail, make the tune exceptional.