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David Binney: Barefooted Town

Dan Bilawsky By

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Saxophonist David Binney broke new ground with Graylen Epicenter (Mythology, 2011), which was a world unto itself, and shortly before that, he delivered Aliso (Criss Cross, 2010)—a jagged set of music featuring original works and some compositions from visionaries like Sam Rivers, Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane. With Barefooted Town, Binney returns for another outing on the Criss Cross label, bringing a whole batch of originals along for the occasion. While this music contains the rhythmic twists and turns, and challenging ideas that have come to be expected in Binney's work, it's actually his most easily digestible date of late.

The rhythmic core of his previous Criss Cross album—drummer Dan Weiss and bassist Eivind Opsvik—returns to help Binney bring his wondrous music to life, but the rest of the cast from Aliso is nowhere to be found. Newcomer David Virelles now occupies the piano chair, and he brings a different sound to Binney's music. His interactions with Weiss, whether starting out with fractured melodic content atop the drummers bouncing grooves and dissolving into jittery commentary ("Seven Sixty"), or dealing with choppy conversational matters ("The Edge Of Seasons"), are always welcome. When Virelles isn't in the spotlight, he's content to play whatever part he's cast in, even if it involves monotonous repetition used to set a mood ("Barefooted Town").

Binney's horn-bearing brothers-in-arms—trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner—are perfectly suited for this project, serving the music as both individuals and a collective presence. "Dignity," which climaxes with tangling horn lines while Weiss comes out with sticks-a-blazing against his cymbals, and "A Night Every Day," which thrives on interlaced lines at the outset, are the perfect examples of what these three men can do together. When they solo, each man proves to be an artful architect that can build and sculpt sound within the parameters laid before them, without ever resorting to cheap gimmicks or imitation of any kind. The addition of Binney's wordless vocals helps to thicken the sound of the group, adding another harmonic layer to the front-line and providing a gripping sound that speaks clearly to the human heart.

While traces of funky grooves thread their way through some of the music early on the album, they never stay in one place for too long. Binney's trademark metric forks in the road always keep things interesting, and Weiss constantly adapts to the contours of each piece and the moods that are brought forth by each soloist. Despite the fact that much of the album is built atop exciting grooves and combinatorial lines that dovetail in unexpected ways, peace and quiet win out in the end, with the lovely "Once, When She Was Here." A sea of excitement is replaced by a sea of tranquility, turning the burgeoning Barefooted Town into a sleepy locale.

Track Listing: Dignity; Seven Sixty; The Edge of Seasons; Barefooted Town; Secret Miracle; A Night Every Day; Once When She Was Here.

Personnel: David Binney: alto saxophone, voice; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; David Virelles; piano; Eivind Opsvik: bass; Dan Weiss: drums.

Title: Barefooted Town | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Criss Cross

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