Based in Denver, Colorado, Alex Heffron is an imaginative guitarist and intelligent composer. His debut, the engaging Looking Out
, demonstrates these talents amply. On it, Heffron leads a sextet consisting of like-minded musicians through an intriguing set of eight of his originals with elegant confidence and simmering passion.
The title track opens the album with a charmingly effervescent mood. Over infectious rhythmic vamps, the frontline play the main theme with vibrant and muscular refrains. Heffron takes center stage with a laid back improvisation which nevertheless crackles with energy. Saxophonist Daryl Gott
follows with brassy swagger and reverberating notes. Gott's and trumpeter Jonathan Saraga
's whimsical sparring marks the closing head.
Saraga extemporizes with agility and verve as he lets loose warm, burnished tones on the captivating "Ennui." An expansive piece with eastern motifs which enhance its mellifluous poetry, it showcases bassist Dan Montgomery
's eloquence and lyricism. Heffron embellishes the main melody with darkly moving and soulful lines. The band's dramatic ensemble sound ushers in the quasi-symphonic conclusion.
The ambience changes on the delightfully intimate "Home," a haunting duet with pianist Walter Gorra
. Heffron and Gorra echo one another with undulating chords and lilting phrases. Heffron's strings shimmer with bluesy hints as Gorra's keys chime and echo with pastel hues. The fluid dialogue is laden with hints of melancholy and nostalgia, and is a subtly romantic "palate cleanser" before the two dramatic final tunes.
Intricately constructed with an expectant atmosphere, "Afterlight" has at its core the pulsatile drive of drummer Braxton Kahn
's restless beats; it also showcases Heffron's skills as a bandleader as he carefully layers individual expressions of his sidemen for a poignant and thrilling group performance.
More languid, yet no less stimulating, is "A New Era," a nocturnesque and orchestral composition highlighted by a darkly rumbling cadence and booming horns. Here, Heffron lets loose a dynamic and inventive soliloquy which is virtuosic without being flamboyant. Gott's sinewy and elastic alto burns a spontaneous path through the band's spirited interpretation. Looking Out
is a cohesive work, thoughtful and quite enjoyable. Although not ground-breaking, Heffron's first release as a leader is refreshingly personal and quite sophisticated. It is an auspicious start to a promising career.
Looking Out; Days to Refine; Sneffles; Ennui; Getting the Heart back; Home; Afterlight; A New Era.