On Contrast, Josh Lawrence and Color Theory's second recording for Posi-Tone, the group executes a classic framework held together with tight chemistry. Lawrence may be the leader, but the gist of the end product is a very democratic arrangement where no one musician or group of musicians takes precedence. Each shine at various times throughout Contrast.
The album is a fairly straightforward endeavor displaying solid, classic jazz in form and execution. It's at the sixth track, "Gray" that we get our first curveball. The tune starts out as an up-tempo toe-tapper. Caleb Wheeler Curtis' alto sax is the first to solo. Of special note is the interplay between him and Luques Curtis' bass. After Curtis' sax solo, the track's tempo suddenly drops, and the tone submerges to a lazy meander. Lawrence nails a mellow yet bubbling solo that again, one intertwines with Curtis's bass well. The track returns to its original gallop before closing out.
"Brown" (Color Theory-get it?) is the next track. Here, some echo effects/processing are applied to Lawrence's trumpet. Nothing over the top, and kept in check, which is a good description of this whole record. Tasteful, nothing over the top, and kept in check.
The mighty Orrin Evans steps in replacing Zaccai Curtis on the last two tracks. "Blues on the Bridge" is a funky hand-clapper. The sparsely arranged number is a welcome, outside the box puzzle piece to add to the record, especially considering the name of the record is Contrast. Evans' solo again, AGAIN works wonderfully over Curtis' bass. There seems to be a theme.
The album rounds out with a cover of Prince's "Sometimes it Snows in April." This may induce some eye-rolling, though it ends up being a great way to end the record. The duo arrangement between Lawrence and Evan's is spot-on with a nod to Lawrence for the manner in which he plays with texture, body, and emotion.
For a digital recording distributed strictly on a digital medium (CD in my case), the presentation is quite non-digital. Its aural aesthetic is very warm and laid back. Imaging is vague and in light of the fact that it's a modern-day studio recording, there isn't much in the way of air and ambiance. However, what the recording production 'lacks' in one way, it makes up for in pure musicality and listenability. You may or may not care about such things. In light of these critiques, none are a deal-breaker as the playing takes precedence.
Contrast is an expression flawlessly executed, for the most part, within a predetermined confine of an era. The nature of the record is tasteful and balanced with solid solos throughout.
Circles On Black; Round The Circle; Dominant Curve; Accompanied Contrast; In The Black Square;
Gray; Brown; Agent Orange; Blues On The Bridge; Sometimes It Snows In April.
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