David Binney's music has always sounded unique. In the liner notes to Cities And Desire, he tells writer Ted Panken, "I touch the keyboard and hear a note, from that point on it leads me into all these different directions, and in many ways it's that way for the listener as well. The Binney originals that comprise the bulk of the saxophonist's two latest efforts, Out Of Airplanes
and Cities And Desire
, come to fruition much like they must have unfolded in the mind of their creator, following a path as elusive as thought itself, unfettered by preconceived notions or genre considerations.
Following the grating, fragmented electronica groove of "Brainstorms PT 1 , the overlapping cross rhythms and displaced backbeat of "Contributors hypnotize the ear, acting as a swirling, nebulous backdrop to the almost sing-songy melody. Binney's alto sticks to the searching melody for the most part, at times emerging to ad lib a few lines in tandem with Bill Frisell's ethereal countermelodies while the rhythm section frantically fills the void with odd harmonic colors and a persistent bass pedal.
Binney's 'stream-of-consciousness' style often results in music most easily classified as rock, albeit with a jazz twist. The altoist thrives on backbeat and power chords the way Bird riffed off of Roy Haynes' ride. Perhaps the only downside of this is the occasional grandiose, 'rock-balladesque' performance. Bassist Eivind Opsvik's composition "Jan Mayen provides a perfect example of this; whispering and delicate at the beginning, the piece stays reflective and open for Frisell's brief solo before Binney sets it on an upward trajectory. Within a few minutes the leader's alto is wailing with Coltrane-ish intensity at the top of its register, over the electric throb of Opsvik's bass, Frisell's distorted power chords and drummer Kenny Wollesen's dramatic rock beat; undoubtedly compelling, but teetering on the brink of corniness nonetheless.
Despite this, Out Of Airplanes
is a disc beautifully conceived and executed by all involved. Binney's music is the focal point and the listener gets to see it come alive at the hands of five supremely-talented musicians. "Instant Distance ends the album and finds the guitar and alto repeating a mantra-like figure over Opsvik's bowed bass and Wollesen's rumbling percussion. A simple melody leads the listener down a wayward harmonic path, far from the familiar, into the distinctive world of its creator.
"Lisbon , the hypnotic opener of Cities And Desire
, is a deceptively simple piece in which Binney and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner play a series of unison lines over a gently pulsing rhythm section. The odd, attractive lines meld seamlessly with their rhythmic accompaniment, setting a mood rather than acting as a platform from which to construct solos.
A concept album of sorts, Cities And Desire
features nine Binney originals named after cities the altoist has visited during his world travels. Like the places themselves, each composition has a vibe of its own: reflective on "Carpinteria , propulsive and urgent on "Rome and the quintet often segues into each through extended unaccompanied solos. Pianist Craig Taborn's sensitive intro sets up "Carpinteria , a scat feature for drummer Dan Weiss and "Toronto is unexpectedly introduced by solo tabla.
Binney's considerable ability as a soloist is apparent throughout Cities And Desire, as is that of Mark Turner, whose dexterity and stratospheric altissimo range will leave jaws hanging.
Tracks and Personnel Out of Airplanes
Tracks: Brainstorms PT 1; Contributors; Jan Mayen; Out Of Airplanes; The Forgotten Gems; Wild Child; Home; Brainstorms PT 2; Bring Your Dream; Instant Distance.
Personnel: David Binney: alto saxophone; Bill Frisell: guitar; Craig Taborn: piano, organ, synth; Eivind Opsvik: basses, glockenspiel; Kenny Wolleson: drums, percussion; Adam Rodgers: additional guitars. Cities and Desires
Tracks: Lisbon; London; Intro To Toronto; Toronto; Los Angeles; Into To Carpinteria; Carpinteria; Intro To Rome; Rome; Montreal; Intro To Miami; Miami; New York City.
Personnel: David Binney; alto saxophone; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; Craig Taborn: piano; Thomas Morgan: bass; Dan Weiss: drums.