One of the more exciting scenarios in jazz unfolds when a group of players comes together, not to realize one individual's specific vision, but just for the sake of making music together and to develop a chemistry which, ideally, was there from the beginning. The group effort here presents the fruits of such an occasion. A Way Out
captures a contemporary jazz quartet that's in it for the joy of playing together.
Forming the band name under which the album is being presented, Eshed Korten Biolcati & Kim are the last names of cast members who are each highly gifted musicians in their own right and sought-after New York-based collaborators. Their individual strengths are presented in a balanced set of original modern jazz scores with a couple of standard-esque sketches sprinkled on top. Massimo Biolcati
, arguably the most prominent of the four due to his immediate association with Lionel Loueke
as part of Gilfema as well as past recordings with the likes of Wayne Shorter
and Herbie Hancock
, not only keeps down the firm bass pulse on the album but also acts as the session's producer. On top of that Biolcati is the founder of Sounderscorethe label on which A Way Out
In light of tendencies traceable within much jazz music produced in the past decade or two, some ingredients here sound like familiar territory. Among them one will find a number of through-composed sequences, often graced with unison lines shared between pianist Lex Korten
and guitarist Yoav Eshed
. Jongkuk Kim
's dexterous drumming tends to frantically flutter, rather than swing, capturing another trait that makes up today's zeitgeist, while Kurt Rosenwinkel
's obvious influence on Eshed's swelling guitar tone and melodic language is undeniable. Within that familiarity one can choose to see criticism or praise.
Praise, because of how adequately these players pay their influences respect. Praise, for the seamless way in which the group fuses familiar repertoire with its own character, resulting in a unique and exciting blend of the modern and the traditional. Praise, simply because the quartet's interplay flows like an unstoppable waterfall and sees each bar filled to the brim with nothing but energy and creativity.
Dark block chords on piano make quite an impression on opener "Rogue"an urgently forward-driven exercise that brings to mind the melodicism found within pianist Aaron Park
's language and a craving pace not unlike some of Kurt Rosenwinkel's hungrier cuts. But there's much versatility to this quartet and the album's diverse array of styles and sounds isn't always in need of references but can stand on its own. The title track, penned by Korten, takes the group to post-bop territory while introducing counteracting lines within a softer sound world. Korten's impeccable musicianship and characterful playing can be marveled at during an extensive piano solo his sidemen accompany with deft swing.
The guitarist's balladic contribution "Piano Rain" is a sonic highlight of the record, demonstrating the transparent scope of the recording while presenting the group in a more restrained light, whereas "It Might As Well be Spring"the only real standard of the sessionpaints the ensemble in another entirely different shade. Leaving modern idioms behind, the four rely on old-school bop and swing language that sees them increasingly meld together, forming a single organism that competently juggles impulses back and forth throughout a dynamic seven-minute arc.
Counterpoint phrases and a whiff of dissonance prove to be rhetorical devices Korten is prone to, as the pianist's other, nimble-fingered contribution, "The Time In Between" provessingling his compositional approach out as an especially distinct kind. Joe Zawinul
's "Young and Fine" sees the band handing the leading torch through the ranks in a high-strung display that is contrasted by the other more contemporary classic, flugelhorn romantic Kenny Wheeler
's "Nikolette" with its subtle melodicism and elegant stride counted in 3sthe waltz dance being among Wheeler's many strong suits. Eshed is no Bill Frisell
and Biolcati no Dave Holland
, but the players do right by Wheeler and embrace the organic flow of his score.
"Frog Mode," the second Eshed-penned contribution, closes the proceedings with gentle sound and jaunty interplay. This time around the guitarist borrows baroque counterpoint as a defining techniquethe piece being based on the Phrygian church modeand pushes the quartet to its classical boundaries, while the core continues to swing.
Eshed Korten Biolcati and Kim undoubtedly share a special chemistry and deliver an inspired debut record that plays it safe enough to sound pleasant to the ear, but reveals daring enough where it needs to be in order to stand out from a crowd of projects with a similar sonic objective. Their immaculate instrumental abilities and seemingly implicit understanding of one another of course help them on the way. A Way Out
is a great record and this group would miss out on something even more special if they stopped here.
Rogue; A Way Out; Piano Rain; Young And Fine; It Might As Well Be Spring; The Time In Between; Nicolette; Frog Mode.