There is hard bop DNA in tenor and soprano saxophonist Tom Tallitsch
's twelfth record as a leader, the third consecutive release for his TT Productions imprint. While it is always tempting to start making comparisons to classic sides from the genre, or to simply dismiss recognizable sounds as old hat in a world bursting with new ideas and concepts, Tallitsch and his associates warrant attention on their own merits.
As on two recent recordings, Wheelhouse
(Posi-Tone) and Ten
(TT Productions), the group on Message
feels like a band rather than a loose aggregation of individuals who are simultaneously chomping at the bit to prove themselves. Setting the pace in ways that don't shout "leader," Tallitsch is equally convincing as a writer, ensemble pilot and soloist. The stature of his nine compositions grows with repeated listening. Some of the most memorable pieces include the affable, up-tempo opener, "Let's Go!," the brisk, broken momentum and active internal mechanisms of "Zipline," the expansive, ballad-like title track, the haunting, world weary "Dusk," and the slightly off-kilter elegance of "Moon."
Tallitsch's solos have a way of getting under your skin without resorting to fireworks. He has reached the enviable position of sounding like himself and no-one else on various kinds of material. In an age when voluble stylists rule, Tallitsch is unlikely to inspire legions of followers but young musicians could do well to follow his example of straightforward expression, particularly on "Let's Go!," "Dusk," and "Moon." He invariably manages to plot a steady course even while guitarist Mike Kennedy
's and pianist Neil Podgurski
's comping sprouts around him, Matthew Parrish lays down a big, broad bass line, and drummer Dan Monaghan
spins webs of accents and effusive trips around the kit.
In addition to their ensemble work, Podgurski and Kennedy make weighty contributions to the record as soloists. The pianist is often something of a live wire, pushing the music forward with a sense of urgency, a sturdy touch, and an abundance of ideas, particularly during "Let's Go!" and "Mablestates." Kennedy's improvisations invariably unfold with patience and care. Throughout "Dusk" and "Mablestates," the manner in which he moves in concert with Parrish and Monaghan exudes a "feels just right" quality which resists precise description. Message
is a worthy addition to Tallitsch's substantial discography.
Let's Go!; Message; Zipline; Bubble; Fearless; Dusk; Mablestates; In The Weeds; Moon.