Confirming the many advantages of a regular working ensemble, the Alchemy Sound Project came together in 2014 to provide an additional venue of exploration for several members of the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute in Los Angeles. Although the group possesses an affinity for fusing classical composition techniques with expansive improvisation, what stands out on Afrika Love
, the collective's third release, is its undisguised love of the jazz tradition.
With a three-horn core of trumpeter Samantha Boshnack
and multi-instrumentalists Erica Lindsay
and Salim Washington
, the veteran members of the group also include bassist David Arend
and pianist Sumi Tonooka
. And as been the case on each of its releases, the ensemble is once again complemented by guests on trombone and drumson this album, Michael Ventoso
and Chad Taylor
, respectively. Ventoso's presence adds low-end sonority to the group's crafty arrangements, while Taylor brings his own characteristically alchemical rhythmic tendencies to the album.
Each of the core members contributes a composition to the album, and it's a testament to the musicians' shared sensibilities that the pieces feel entirely cohesive, cut from the same cloth. Arend provides the opener, "The Fountain," a smartly constructed track with a driving momentum from the horns flavored by robust harmonic sophistication, maintaining tightly controlled ensemble parameters that pave the way for a tenacious solo from Tonooka, while Washington and Lindsay eventually break the track open with some powerful tenor sax statements.
Tonooka's "Dark Blue Residue" and Washington's "Afrika Love" take things in a more somber-hued direction, with deeper reservoirs of melancholy colored by the horns' diverse timbres. Lindsay's alto flute and Washington's oboe are especially noteworthy on the latter cut in setting the foundation for a winding journey that becomes progressively more intense as the track builds toward its bracing finish, with Washington returning to tenor in especially ferocious form.
Not to be outdone, Boshnack's "Cadillac of Mountains" and Lindsay's "Kesii" illustrate the group's proclivities for generating diverse moods in its music, utilizing shifting motifs that are undeniably heady yet eminently accessible. The result is music that holds up well to multiple encounters, with plenty to savor each time. What is certain is that the Alchemy Sound Project's "quintet plus guests" format has worked exceptionally well for three releases running, and future iterations should be just as compelling.
The Fountain; Dark Blue Residue; Afrika Love; The Cadillac of Mountains; Kesii.