152

Benjamin Drazen: Inner Flights

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
Benjamin Drazen: Inner Flights The peaceful, John Lennon-like face on the cover of Inner Flights is merely a mask. Behind that calm exterior is a musician with killer instincts and serious chops. Sure, saxophonist Benjamin Drazen can be calm and graceful when he wants to, as he is on Inner Flights' closing track, "Polka Dots And Moonbeams," but more often than not, Drazen takes to the skies in spectacularly soaring flights.

On his debut album, Drazen dives head first into music of a mystical nature ("Prayer For Brothers Gone"), songs built on shifting terra firma ("Jazz Heaven"), original music created in the image of the great Thelonious Monk ("Monkish") and standards, both rare (Ira Gershwin's "This Is New") and commonplace ("Polka Dots And Moonbeams"). In creating this diverse program of music, Drazen also presents different pictures of himself as a soloist: in one instance, ripping through some burning, angular lines with a take-no-prisoners attitude ("Mr. Twilight"); in another, going through a spiritual catharsis over a loosely knit backdrop of arco bass, cymbal swells and pianistic waves ("Prayer For Brothers Gone"). While alto saxophone seems to be Drazen's main axe, he demonstrates great skill and potential, along with a Dave Liebman-like zeal, when he wields his soprano on the title track.

Pianist Jon Davis often shares the solo duties with Drazen, but some of the best moments come when they give drummer Eric McPherson some face time. "Monkish," which begins with a piano solo that's more caricature than homage, features some fine solo exchanges between Drazen, Davis and McPherson; the pianist going, perhaps, one step too far in his introduction, but more than redeeming himself during a solo spot which includes a brief "Bemsha Swing" quote. McPherson and bassist Carlo De Rosa masterfully steer the band through "Jazz Heaven," which is built on a continually shifting form, from straight swing to Latin, with a brief odd-metered detour in the middle. Eventually, De Rosa and Davis create a vamping presence in the Latin section, allowing McPherson free reign.

While Drazen proves his worth in a variety of settings early on, the final pair of songs fill in two of the most important missing pieces. The penultimate performance gives Drazen a chance to show that he can do the searching, '70s saxophone thing ("Kickin' Up Dirt") as well as the next guy, while the closing "Polka Dots And Moonbeams" proves that Drazen can excel in a standard ballad setting. With Inner Flights, Benjamin Drazen has created a complete and lasting work of meaning that's an early contender for best debut album of 2011.


Track Listing: Mr. Twilight; Monkish; Prayer For Brothers Gone; Jazz Heaven; Inner Flights; Neeney's Waltz; This Is New; Kickin' Up Dirt; Polka Dots And Moonbeams.

Personnel: Benjamin Drazen: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Jon Davis: piano; Carlo De Rosa: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "The Eighth Hour Of Amduat" CD/LP/Track Review The Eighth Hour Of Amduat
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 9, 2017
Read "Shawn Maxwell's New Tomorrow" CD/LP/Track Review Shawn Maxwell's New Tomorrow
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 16, 2016
Read "Jinja" CD/LP/Track Review Jinja
by James Nadal
Published: February 11, 2017
Read "Factory Girl" CD/LP/Track Review Factory Girl
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 22, 2016
Read "Leaps In Leicester" CD/LP/Track Review Leaps In Leicester
by John Sharpe
Published: September 28, 2016
Read "The Digging" CD/LP/Track Review The Digging
by Budd Kopman
Published: July 31, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!