Reedman Matt Renzi's Happy Hour is curiously titled, given the music at hand. A "Happy Hour" brings cheap drinks and cacophonous good times in the bar room to mind. The CD of that name opens with a tranquil reverie, as mystical, inward-looking and spiritually directed as a late-period Impulse! John Coltrane rumination.
The trio format is Renzi's primary form of expression. He and bassist Dave Ambrosio, along with drummer Russ Meissner, have performed together as a group since 1998, resulting in several excellent recordings, including The Cave (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2005) and Lunch Special (Three P's, 2009). Happy Hour continues with the deep and patient explorations of its predecessors.
Renzi, a student of the music of South India, draws on these studies with measured raga-like drones on the opening cut, "VP," and the tangy serpentine lines of "Banshee Dance." He examines a freer rubato territory, with a gruffer tone, on "On Three" and the ominous "Seven Days." "Track 26" has a Jimmy Garrison/Elvin Jones turbulence and dark energy, while "Snipets" has a feeling of churning, murky mysteries slowly revealed.
Renzi's tenor saxophone tone varies from Stan Getz-like smoothness to beefy growls inside a trio dynamic that rolls and tumbles with a studied finesse married to a free form spontaneity. Like his previous recordings, there is a feeling of suite-like cohesion and profundity to the set. It is a music that might be classified a "free," but is consistently beautiful and always approachable, from a trio that has crafted a remarkably symbiotic sound.