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Brandon Wright: Boiling Point

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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The appeal of saxophonist, Brandon Wright comes fast, bearing a rather lyrical swagger. This young tenor player shows plenty of confidence—even cockiness—and a mature attitude on Boiling Point. Wright has a full, round tone and a forthright attack; his fingering is deft, almost like a stage magician, and it bodes with it a whispering glissando in the dying elements of his phrases and notes. His solos are full of bright ideas and flow full and free, billowing in gentle gusts of breezy air expelled from pliant lungs. They grow vertically, spiraling upwards with elegant power, twirling around his peers, especially trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, who sometimes answers in a contrapuntal fashion. Then, of the down-stroke Wright employs, a double helix-like free-fall occurs, as he soft-lands on the beautiful melodies he creates/interprets.

Wright's compositions are modal in nature, forcing the ensemble to sometimes echo the middle period of John Coltrane, where he was extremely garrulous in the company of Wynton Kelly and McCoy Tyner, and the arpeggios were incessant and full of dynamic tension. However, Wright is his own man as well and sounds less like 'Trane than imagined. If ancestry is being sought, then he has descended from a melting pot that includes more Wayne Shorter than 'Trane. Still his voice is distinctive. The breathtaking pace of "Free Man" is followed by the more thoughtful, almost languorous "Drift." "Odd Man Out" is bewitching and tricky, both harmonically and rhythmically. "Castaway" returns to a mysterious melody, indicating that Wright somewhat favors the more magical elements of sound rather than the logical, mathematical notation of music, for here he bends notes and makes them twist and turn as he plays with tone and textures; this is such a thrill to the ear.

Of the standards fare offered, "Here's That Rainy Day" is soaked in emotion, and is a ballad par excellence. The softness of this performance is distinctly vocal, and almost conjures up the spirit of someone like Sarah Vaughan as Wright's heartrending melody unfolds. "Interstate Love Song" negotiates its elegiac content with mature expertise, as the song swings gently between waltz-time and a quickstep. "You Are My Everything" is another masterfully melodic sashay from a musician who combines the best sense of lyricism and romance of music, altogether eschewing crass sentimentality.

Part of the reason Wright blows with heartfelt abandon is that he is accompanied on his tuneful journey by a fine group of musicians—cohorts from regular working bands like the Mingus Big Band, Maria Schneider Orchestra and Fred Wesley. Hans Glawischnig is majestic and melodic, dancing all over the songs' bass lines. Pianist David Kikoski is firm and sinewy, but expresses himself with feline grace. And Matt Wilson listens as carefully as a musician singing in harmony with a lead voice. Based on the musical evidence here, much more will be expected from Wright, and soon.

Track Listing: Free Man; Drift; Odd Man Out; Boiling Point; Here's That Rainy Day; Castaway; Interstate Love Song; You're My Everything.

Personnel: Brandon Wright: tenor saxophone; Alex Sipiagin: trumpet; David Kikoski: piano; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.

Title: Boiling Point | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records


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