The eponymously titled debut album by this trio of Berklee College of Music alumni is led by tenor saxophonist Chris Weller and was recorded between December 2013 and January 2014. The lack of bass in this band doesn't inhibit its ability to engage with rock infused dynamics. Comparisons with other groups are not easy since this one is unique, maybe Sex Mob, possibly Acoustic Ladyland but these guys carve out their own territory.
The angular keyboard style of Cole Degenova becomes immediately apparent from track one "D Rover" but then the rhythmic emphasis starts to break down halfway through, unusually the tenor saxophone almost takes on an anchoring role, but whilst at times it gives the illusion of free music, it's topped and tailed with a theme and carefully constructed middle passage. Duke Ellington's ballad "The Single Petal of a Rose" is given a restrained and elegant reading, a million miles from the opener and vaguely reminiscent of early Weather Report.
"Doo Wop" has a searching feel to its complex opening and closing theme resolving into labyrinthine keyboard soloing with the tenor saxophone exploring the higher registers, whilst all the while drums are creating a vitally frenetic sonic backdrop.
The chordally satisfying "Early Bird" has the group sounding larger than just three instruments, with a huge tenor saxophone sound soaring over the top, enthusiastically chased by chunky electric piano.
The repeated figure introduction to "Lucid Dream" evolves into a fast-paced toe-tapper which again showcases Weller's fluent saxophone to great effect. The final track "Confucius Says" opens with a more cerebral theme, again veering towards the exploratory with more improvisation than written notation but nonetheless retaining a confidently premeditated construction.
At just under 39 minutes this is a relatively short album by today's standards where artists -often gratuitously -insist on filling the whole 79 minutes, but there's no filler here.
Track Listing: D Rover; The Single Petal of a Rose; Doo-Wop; Early Bird; Lucid Dream; Confucius Says.
Personnel: Chris Weller: tenor saxophone; Devin Drobka: drums; Cole DeGenova: keyboard/rhodes.
Title: Chris Weller's Hanging Hearts
| Year Released: 2014
| Record Label: Self Produced