From its formation in 2004, SFJAZZ Collective has demonstrated a unique ability to showcase individual talent while simultaneously maintaining a unified ensemble sound. Live 2009 is a magnificent representation of this delicate balance. The Collective's 2009 tour featured compositions by pianist McCoy Tyner arranged by members of the collective, and one original composition by each player.
The arrangements portray the diverse styles and musical backgrounds of the Collective's members, while keeping the spirit of the original recordings. Pianist Renee Rosnes' "Fly with the Wind" and trombonist Robin Eubanks' "Indo-Serenade/Parody" are the strongest arrangements of Tyner's music, taking full advantage of the seven voices at their disposal to create compelling ensemble passages and background figures with plenty of room for the soloists to explore the territory.
The true versatility and originality of the Collective's members, however, shines through in the original compositions. From Eubanks' "Yes We Can - Victory Dance" (a tribute to American President Barack Obama) to bassist Matt Penman's humorously titled response "Yup, We Did," each composition is unique and personal. "Yes We Can" is a fun and carefree yet complex tune, with Eubanks and drummer Eric Harland weaving their way through its odd meters with ease before giving way to trumpeter Dave Douglas and Rosnes, who make their statements over a tightly executed, funky groove established by Penman and Harland. Douglas' melancholy "Sycamore" conveys a wide array of emotions in three distinct sections.
The title accurately describes the tune on tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano's "Jazz Free." Soloists are allowed to branch out and move in their own direction with the inherent trust that they will not stray too far away from one another. Altoist Miguel Zenon lives up to his status as officially recognized genius with "No Filter," another creative blend of Latin-American rhythms and modern jazz. Harland is finally starting to develop his own voice with "E-Collective," where elements of earlier, modal tunes written for the Collective remain, but a new level of compositional maturity and restraint is demonstrated.
Rosnes' beautiful, samba-influenced "Migrations" makes terrific use of the entire ensemble, while Penman's "Yup, We Did" is a well-constructed, up-tempo and mostly straight-ahead piece (lacking, however, the energy and boldness of some of his earlier writing).
SFJAZZ Collective's Live 2009 has plenty of appeal for fans of modern, small-ensemble jazza stunning example of what can happen when seven extremely talented and versatile musicians lay aside their egos for the common goal of creating a fantastic work of art.
CD1: Fly with the Wind; Three Flowers; Yes We Can - Victory Dance; Sycamore; Jazz Free; No Filter. CD2: Peresina; Four by Five; Aisha; Consensus; Indo-Serenade/Parody; E-Collective; Migrations; Yup, We Did.
Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone; Renee Rosnes: piano; Miguel Zenón: alto saxophone; Matt Penman: bass; Dave Douglas: trumpet; Eric Harland: drums; Robin Eubanks: trombone.