Why does tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson call this band Project Project? Is it because he gives composition and improvisation separate identities and the merges them skillfully? That's just a thought. His ability to write and orchestrate music that sings and celebrates, and then have members of his band incise it with an unabashed sense of adventure, makes for glorious listening. There is never a dull moment, with inspiration constantly nudging surprise.
Jackson is helped along on this project by a band of some of the finest improvisers, never wary about taking a risk, yet astute enough to know when to stop. Jackson's arrangements, in the way he sets up the instruments to solo and to converse, are an added magnet.
Jackson 's art of blending idioms is made manifest right off. Trombonists Jeb Bishop and Nick Broste weave and parry, instilling an air of freedom into "Dragon Fly, a stance that is extended by short intonations from Jamie Branch (trumpet). It is here that Keefe veers away, bringing in the band to play nimble ensemble lines. The orchestration is compact, but Jason Stein finds the room to rove spiritedly on the bass clarinet, pushed by drummer Frank Rosaly, who is a constant fount of rhythmic magnetism. Josh Berman (cornet) blends free lines with a fiery melodic thrust, before the whole coalesces into silky swing.
Mainstream jazz is "Just Like This and Jackson lays it on the line with his tenor. His phrases are pithy and he swings without swagger. Branch comes in, goes with the flow and then cuts loose with abrasive lines. Right through, Rosaly and Anton Hatwich (bass) are a solid, yet supple rhythm bed. Into the swirling synthesis comes James Falcone, the soothing strains of his clarinet quickly navigating an intense trail as he soars and dips and swings with well-timed abandon.
Dave Rempis (tenor saxophone) in full flight brings in a stunning spectrum of sound. He lets the impact grow gradually on "Which Well, before unleashing restless energy. His authority is stamped right across in the whirls and flips, and his flinty, hard-edged tonality. Rosaly joins him with snap attacks on the snares and a rumble on the bass drum. Jackson changes the parameters through Falzone and Gullermo Gregorio, who take the tune into a shady nook, in the middle of which flows the rippling tide of their flutes.
Dragon Fly; Grass Is Greener; Titled; Just Like This; Which Well; Wind-Up Toy.
Keefe Jackson: tenor sax, bass clarinet, composer; Josh Berman: cornet; Jaimie Branch: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeb Bishop: trombone; Nick Broste: trombone; Marc Unternahrer: tuba; James Falzone: clarinet; Guillermo Gregorio: alto sax, clarinet; Dave Rempis: alto and baritone sax; Jason Stein: bass clarinet; Anton Hatwich: bass; Frank Rosaly: drums.