Although Humanity Part II, the oracular title of bassist Robert Sabin's new album, may summon images of a Mel Brooks parody (Part I must have slipped past us), the music itself is decidedly serious. In the liner notes, wherein he references Albert Camus, Ennio Morricone, John Carpenter, Ingmar Bergman, Maurice Ravel and Dario Argento, Sabin makes it quite clear that he and his tentet are scanning a road map that traverses musical pathways visibly (and audibly) removed from customary ports of call.
Morricone wrote the theme on which the album is based (for Carpenter's film "The Thing"), Sabin everything else. As a rule, the music is circuitous and cerebral, paying earnest homage to unsmiling film music while veering occasionally into the realms of avant-garde and even canonical jazz. To perform it, Sabin has enlisted the services of some of the New York area's more accomplished sidemen, several of whom are given leave to improvise. Tenor Jason Rigby and guitarist Jesse Lewis answer the call on "Humanity Part II," Rigby and tubaist Ben Sapp on "Through a Glass Darkly" (based on a Bergman trilogy), trombonist John Yao and horn player Chris Komer on "Scarecrow" (inspired by Ravel), Rigby again on "Ghost," alto Aaron Irwin and trumpeter Matt Holman on "Tenebre," Aaron and Lewis on "Leviathan." While the solos are by and large unassuming, they are no less germane to Sabin's inclusive purpose.
Even though Sabin's musical blueprint may not please everyone's palate, it's clear he has an explicit game plan in mind and the boldness to carry it through. It's also clear that his colleagues are on the same page, giving his concepts the best they have to offer. In other words, you couldn't play Sabin's music, esoteric as it is, much better than this. The colors are luminous and well-defined, the sense of awareness and commitment unmistakable, the recording itself unblemished. In the end, however, this is music for the more inquisitive mind; those who prefer upbeat jazz that waves flags and burns barns are advised to look elsewhere for satisfaction.
Humanity (Part II); Through a Glass Darkly; Scarecrow; Ghost; Tenebre; Leviathan.
Robert Sabin: bass; Jesse Lewis: guitar; Jeremy Noller: drums; Aaron Irwin: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute; Jason Rigby: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Dan Urness: trumpet; Matt Holman: trumpet; Chris Komer: horn; John Yao: trombone; Ben Stapp: tuba.
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