Meridian Odyssey is a sextet comprising young musicians from the improbable jazz territory of Big Lake, Alaska, and Earthshine is their second recording together, with trumpeter Noah Halpern having been added to the quintet since the ensemble's 2021 debut album, Second Wave. On Earthshine, there are nine original compositions by members of the group, two of which ("The Front of the Mirror," "Reflecting") are roughly a minute or so long.
"Mirror" was written by and features bassist Ben Feldman playing alone, while "Reflecting," composed by pianist Dylan Hayes, consists of ethereal sound effects produced on his keyboard. If nothing else, Earthshine serves to emphasise that, in spite of the many obstacles to inhibit their progress, including a global pandemic, young jazz musicians are flourishing on today's scene. A few, like Meridian Odyssey, have even landed recording contracts with established labels. True, the audience is not what it once was, but that is hardly their fault.
Technically, Meridian Odyssey is on even terms with most groups its size, while the soloists (mainly Halpern, Hayes and tenor saxophonist Santosh Sharma) are quite capable yet less than remarkable. They simply play well while respecting the precepts and boundaries of contemporary jazz. The same holds true for the material, nothing amiss yet nothing that rises appreciably above the norm. There are nice splashes of color here and there, as on guitarist Martin Budde's "Tuesday Wednesday," Feldman's "Searchlight" and Sharma's "Earthshine," and the group swings nicely on several numbers, especially "In Front of the Mirror" and "Song for Jovino." But when all is added up, the sum total is about average or at most a trace above.
That is not to say Meridian Odyssey is lacking in polish or diligenceonly that Earthshine is not in every respect as bright and warm as could be envisioned. Even though the shine is less than radiant in this precinct, other listeners may find more harmony and solace in its afterglow.
XD; Tuesday Wednesday; In Front of the Mirror; Behind the Mirror; Searchlight; About Time; Song for Jovino;
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