Since founding Mythology Records in 1998, tireless alto saxophonist David Binney has alternated between issuing ambitious projects on his own label and cutting casual blowing sessions for the Netherlands-based imprint Criss Cross. Continuing this pattern, Barefooted Town is Binney's second release of 2011, following the expansive Graylen Epicenter (Mythology). Despite the limited studio time afforded Binney's Criss Cross dates, this set's intricate originals have more in common with his elaborate Mythology-based endeavors than his usual stripped-down efforts for the Dutch label, such as last year's cover tune-dominated Aliso (Criss Cross).
In addition to honing an instantly recognizable voice on alto, Binney has established himself as a composer of note, whose remarkably lyrical themes are bolstered by intricate but unobtrusive structures. His ubiquitous work as a producer has also made him a mentor to a cadre of youthful talent, including such regular sidemen as tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Dan Weiss, who are joined on this recording by rising trumpet superstar Ambrose Akinmusire and up-and-coming pianist David Virelles. Each a virtuosic stylist, their imaginative interpretations of Binney's tortuous melodies and rich harmonies infuse these memorable pieces with a palpable conviction that resonates long after the record is over.
The album offers a varied display of Binney's compositional talents, veering from the anthemic opener, "Dignity," with its contrapuntal horn interplay and supple rhythmic shifts, to the brooding title track, whose hypnotic ostinatos and unfettered testimonials straddle a fine line between atmospheric impressionism and avant-garde expressionism. Reveling in such diversity, the sextet waxes joyous on the punchy "Seven Sixty" and somber throughout the subtle counterpoint of the poetic "A Night Every Day." The episodic centerpiece "The Edge Of Seasons" encapsulates a range of emotions; Opsvik's opening gambit exudes melancholy introspection while Virelles' scintillating cadences clear the air, setting the stage for the leader's ebullient alto variations.
Although a compelling soloist in his own right, Binney magnanimously shares the spotlight with his sidemen, offering ample space for Weiss' adroit rhythm variations and Virelles' bristling filigrees on "Seven Sixty," while highlighting Akinmusire and Turner's improvisatory mettle on the lush "Secret Miracle." The later number is further embellished by Binney's vocal harmonizingalso present on the opener and title trackwhich adds a rich layer of emotional depth to these sonorous tunes. Following a conceptual arc from animated to introspective, Binney ends Barefooted Town with the romantic ballad "Once, She Was Here," closing out another document in the ongoing development of one of mainstream jazz's most prolific and gifted artists.
Dignity; Seven Sixty; The Edge of Seasons; Barefooted Town; Secret Miracle; A Night Every Day; Once When She Was Here.
David Binney: alto saxophone, voice; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; David Virelles; piano; Eivind Opsvik: bass; Dan Weiss: drums.
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