Saxophonist Darius Jones has rung the changes on each of his widely acclaimed leadership dates. Book Of Mae'bul
subverts expectations again with an all new quartet drawn from NYC's finest, who shift between intricate script and flowing invention in the blink of an eye. Together they navigate eight of Jones' compositions, which tend towards order rather than entropy more than might be expected. For those looking for comparisons, drummer Mike Pride
's From Bacteria To Boys' Betweenwhile
(Aum Fidelity, 2010) which featured the reedman, provides a more accurate indication of the ground traversed in its subtle subversion of classic jazz tropes than either of Jones' prior Man'ish Boy
(Aum Fidelity, 2009) or Big Gurl
(Aum Fidelity 2011).
Jones' keening, emotion-laden saxophone is all-pervasive, largely eschewing the extremes except for the occasional blurts at the start or end of phrases. That typifies his approach: a gorgeous vibrato caress shaded with carefully controlled overblowing. On piano, Matt Mitchell
, lately seen with Tim Berne
's Snakeoil, furnishes sophisticated harmonic support which jostles and envelops the leader. In the bass chair, Trevor Dunn
's sure-footed calisthenics form the foundation which underpins proceedings, more so than drummer Ches Smith
(also part of Berne's ensemble) whose stream of consciousness delivery delineates the pulse through non-repeating motifs, angular attacks and diverting textures.
Jones has added a new dimension to his writing. With each track he takes convention and gives it a twist, juxtaposing disparate styles in a manner which elicits complicated emotional responses. Few cuts finish in the same arena in which they started, often going through a sequence of moods. A series of lucent piano notes presage the achingly plaintive theme, and subsequent choppy extemporizations of "The Enjoli Moon," while on "Be Patient With Me" a tender rubato opening segues into an impassioned saxophone break, before a rippling piano trio that imperceptibly develops an out of focus salsa feel, only to close as an enraptured ballad. By contrast, the headlong tumble of "Winkie" explores call and response as an organizing motif, first set out in rejoinders between alto and piano, and then subsequently dueling bass and drums, until an insistent Latin vamp closes out. The only misfire is "Roosevelt," reprised from his debut in a bare bones rendering, where a long fadeout irritates, especially as it contains some of the most adventurous playing on the disc.