Determining the order of tracks on an album can be as significant as gathering the right ensemble of musicians for a project. On both accounts, saxophonist Brandon Wright has succeeded very well on his debut, Boiling Point
, for which he penned five of the eight compositions. The opening "Free Man" grabs hold at once, with the piano/bass/drums rhythm section paving the way, in just a few beats, for a strong melodic entrance by Wright and trumpeter Alex Sipiagin
(Mingus Big Band/Dynasty/Orchestra, Dave Holland
Big Band, Michael Brecker
As soon as Wright kicks off on his own, thoughts emerge of how the legacy of great jazz legends is being kept alive; a notion that finds more room for contemplation during the intro to "Drift." It's a sensitive piece where, again, both Wright and Sipiagin narrate a rich melodic line until the saxophonist takes lead in an engaging musical monologue. "Odd Man Out" starts with a luscious piano intro by David Kikoski; a great composition with a catchy recurring theme, around where Wright, Sipiagin and Kikoski play their hand in tasteful abundance. The aptly named, up-tempo title trackhalfway through the albumtouches on Wright's many influences and encounters as a sideman, ranging from his Miami school days to touring with various ensembles including Gregg Field, the Chico O'Farrill Latin Big Band, the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra and Chuck Mangione.
The beautiful standard "Here's That Rainy Day," by Jimmy Van Heusen, is poised and very elegant, qualities that also define the rest of the album. "Castaway," yet another up-tempo piece, is the longest on the album at over nine minutes, highlighting conversational as well as solo skills between Wright, Sipiagin and Kikoski, whilst bassist Hans Glawischnig
and drummer Matt Wilson
offer appropriate detail, accent and deceiving invisibility. "Interstate Love Song," a hit from Stone Temple Pilots, contains a clever arrangement that highlights Wright's ability to transform any kind of music. The album concludes with "You're My Everything," from Harry Warren (one of the first major American songwriters), with Kikoski taking much of the credit for this instrumental yet narrative-rich version, as well as pushing Wilson a little bit in the front.
Though not innovative and, in many ways, treading familiar ground, Wright and his excellent band do offer a fresh and solid incarnation of the jazz idiom: soulful, lyrical, narrative and sensitive, technically skilled and emotionally evolved. Boiling Point is an intelligent debut from a young musician whose broad, award-winning musical horizon is portrayed with a fine sense for both traditional and contemporary sounds.