The Kin Triosaxophonist Sunjae Lee, bassist Andre St. James, drummer Tim DuRochecall what they do "minimalist bebop." An apparent oxymoron, given that bebop has such maximalist tendencies (exhibit A is trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie
's dizzying "Bebop").
They don't mean to be taken so literally, of course. The Kin-men have ably absorbed the sparer offshoots of the bebop impulselike alto saxophonist Paul Desmond
and baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan
, swinging in an understated way in a similarly piano-less setting on Two of a Mind
(RCA Victor, 1962), most clearly recalled on the new album's title cut. Or, to take a more recent example, saxophonist Jessica Jones
and French horn player Mark Taylor
's marvelous Live at the Freight
(New Artist, 2012), whose post-free jazz beauty is reflected in Breathe
's "I Hear A Singing Bowl."
Lee's voice is particularly central to the Kin Trio. Certain of the abiding concerns of his earlier records, all released under the name Eugene Lee on the Pure Potentiality label, surface on Breathe
. Chief among these is jazz's conception of collective action as one form of freedom, an important component of the ensemble numbers on Lee's Srivbanacore
(2007). In this pursuit of freedom, the Kin Trio stakes out broad stylistic and temperamental terrain. These guys can evoke the cool Desmond and Mulligan; "Nevele," meanwhile, is rendered in the spirit of multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy
Another concern from Lee's earlier records is the process of meditation as a spiritual discipline. Meditations
(2008) depicted more or less literally the turmoil of the mind not at rest, while equilibrium
(2009) focused more subtly on the objects of concentration, like a rainstorm. On Breathe
, "Jing Chi Shen" continues these solo excursions, outside bebop altogether. What is apparently solo saxophone sustains a single note through slight timbral changes and effects, sustaining meditative interest for several minutes (like saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell
); when a new note is struck well into the performance, it's jarring.
More striking than the continuity with Lee's rigorous previous work, however, is how the trio sound differs from the earlier records, hewing more closely to familiar jazz conventions.
And it all ends with a lovely reading of Michael Jackson
's favorite song, Charlie Chaplin's "Smile." Lee's soulful solo is particularly in the tradition here, nimbly dancing around St. James' stolid bass notes.