An accomplished sideman (Dave Valentin, James Spaulding, Claudio Roditi) and a graduate of William Paterson University's acclaimed jazz studies program, woodwind multi-instrumentalist Jim Saltzman is a mainstay of the New York and Philadelphia jazz scenes. With a resume like his, the fact that Saltzman's playing is as self-assured as any national act is no surprise. The more pleasant surprise is the quality of the originals he brings to Hidden Intentionsall of them delivered by a hard-hitting quartet that thinks and moves as one.
The title track is a misnomer. There's nothing "hidden about the intentions of Saltzman and his mates on this delightfully aggressive opener. They're here to take some prisoners (or not), and they're going to do it by going out on the edge and finding out how far they can stretch the boundaries. Saltzman's tenor roars and howls over Quinn Blandford's high-energy drumming. Even when the band dials back for Pat Firth's glowing piano, the underlying tension Blandford and Jay Foote create is very, very sweet.
Even on "quiet tunes, Saltzman's quartet makes choices that eschew the road more traveled. Blandford's drums rumble like distant thunder on "In God's Country as Saltzman plays passionate, almost-romantic tenor, intimating at the course of love is fraught with peril. Firth switches to Fender Rhodes on "He Can't Open the Open Door, and his interplay with Foote's solid bass gives the piece a steady dose of funk as Saltzman's snake-charming soprano makes this quiet piece seem very electric. Saltzman takes the snake-charmer metaphor even further when he pulls out Native American flutes for the haunting intro to "Losing Sight ; Blandford plays tom-toms, adding to the tribal vibe.
Firth is Saltzman's foil and alter-ego, catching flies with honey while Saltzman snatches them out of the air. Firth's solo on "Losing Sight belies the tortured cries coming from Saltzman's flute. As tasty as his piano work is on the swinging "No Fault, Firth's Fender brings a real sting to "Open Door and "What May Come of This? Blandford's drums are the conscience of the band, keeping everybody's edge consistently sharp. Foote's solo on "Eclipse is the work of a leader, which he is; even so, he deftly folds into the unit to pour a quality foundation.
If anything, Saltzman's compositions are all about confronting hidden intentions with blatant honesty. Honesty must be the best policy, because Hidden Intentions is as honest as you're ever going to find. In an age where integrity usually runs second to marketability, Jim Saltzman takes the road less traveled. And that makes all the difference.
Hidden Intentions; He Can
Jim Saltzman: tenor and soprano saxophones, bansuri, Native American flutes; Pat Firth: piano, Fender Rhodes; Jay Foote: bass; Quinn Blandford: drums.
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