Igor Osypov's debut album, I (Unit Records, 2015), was quite promising in many ways. Yet, it was a snapshot of an artist still in the formative stages of the craft. Thus, the content of the Berlin-based plectrist's Dream Delivery came as a pleasant shock. Seemingly, within the past year, Osypov has taken prodigious strides towards staking out a unique personal sound. Wielding a semi-hollow body electric, Osypov defaults to a clean tone and a notably percussive attack while mixing in carefully selected effects quite judiciously. While I seemed to hover stylistically around the bucolic low-key, fusion-tinged jazz sounds popularized by Pat Metheny and John Abercrombie in the 1970s and 80s and further developed by Kurt Rosenwinkel (Osypov's mentor at Jazz Institute Berlin) and Nir Felder during the 2000s, Dream Delivery casts the stylistic net much farther. Starting off with "Lakmus," a joyous burst of free-bop, Osypov's sharp-edged sound seems much more akin to that of lesser-known (but no less wonderful) improvisers such as Joe Morris and Jeff Platz.
None of the fine musicians backing Osypov on I are present on Dream Delivery. The entirely new crew includes a tasty, adventurous drummer in Moritz Baumgärtner and a brawny, assured bassist in Max Mucha. Saxophonist Wanja Slavin is a real find. Sticking exclusively to alto, Slavin is every bit as mercurial an improviser as Osypov, and possesses the sort of lush, vibrant sound one can listen to for days without tiring. It turns out that Slavin has studied with some of the finest (and most interesting) jazz saxophonists around: Nicolas Simion, Lee Konitz, and Leszek Zadlo. Konitz' influencethat buttery almost flute- like tone and precise yet unhurried phrasingon Slavin's playing is evident on two down-tempo pieces; the tension-filled group improv "The Man Who Was Sunday" and the darkly sensuous "Balladize." On the latter, Osypov's acoustic guitar is also quite a treat.
Dream Delivery comes at the listener from every possible angle. The title track gradually builds Slavin's yelping alto out frontmorphing from an elegiac jazz ballad to an indie rock anthem. "Erased Roads," a hard bop waltz, revels in rolling rhythmic possibilities. "Ushuaia" draws from the same stylistic well that informed I. However, the looser, more spontaneous sensibility of the rhythm section takes the piece to a completely different place. The two versions of "Refreshments" are a hoot. The piece is substantial enough to warrant a reprise. On the first take, Mucha's clipped bass line has math-y funk feelalmost M-BASE soundingbut the melody veers off in completely different direction. Osypov stomps hard on his stomp boxes, and Baumgärtner gleefully goes to town on his kit. When Slavin solos, the guys pull the energy in and the effect is like a welcome cool breeze. The second take is much looser, and maybe a touch slower, with Baumgärtner adding a lot more textural variations.
A most auspicious sophomore effort, Dream Delivery is one of the year's most pleasant jazz surprises.
Lakmus; Erased Roads; Dream Delivery; The Man Who Was Sunday; Ushuaia;
Refreshments; Balladize; The Man Who Was Monday; Refreshments (basement
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