The fact that Momentum is only Shirantha Beddage's third album as a leader since 2007 suggests that he's either putting a lot of thought into his music, or that he has a lot of other stuff going on. One thing he has going on is composing music for the FX television series Fargo. Still, it's kind of interesting that, in today's media- mad world, someone would leave a 4 or 5 year gap between albums. For Momentum, Beddage has reconvened much of the crew from his previous release, Identity (Addo Records, 2012), including pianist Dave Restivo, bassist Mike Downes, and drummer Mark Kelso. Sitting in on several tracks are former Yellowjackets drummer Will Kennedy, and the M-BASE affiliated electric bassist Rich Brown. Momentum sits in a stylistic sweet spot between Headhunters-or Weather Report-styled funky fusion and the somewhat more brainy and refined end of the 21st Century jazz continuum. There's considerable range to Beddage's music, as exemplified by the hard-swinging up-tempo acoustic post-bop of "Angle of Incidence" and the sly downtempo funk of "Drag and Drop."
The album starts off, uncharacteristically, with a New Orleans second-line rhythm. The real feel here comes courtesy of ace drummer Kelso, who's impressed many with his work in David Buchbinder's Odessa / Havana. The next four tracks feature the Brown / Kennedy rhythm section. On "Drag and Drop," Restivo's Fender Rhodes hearkens back to the salad days of 70s fusion, and these guys simply go to town with it. Primarily a baritone saxophonist, though he also plays keys, clarinets, alto saxophone, and flute, Beddage wails appropriately and at length over the roiling rhythm section. Centered around a rhapsodic duet with Restivo, "Gravity" puts a soulful spin on an idea inspired, as Beddage points out in his liners, by the music of J. S. Bach. A dark, mournful, almost spooky piece, the slow-moving title trackinspired by the movie music of Bernard Herrmannfeatures the leader on bass clarinet. Tellingly, Beddage switches to the bari for the tune's much heavier climax. Clocking in at less than three minutes in length, "Axis of Rotation" is both one of the more fascinating tunes on the album and far too brief. The lengthy head takes up the entirety of the recorded version and is engaging enough to make one wonder what the band could have done with it improvisationally.
"The Long Goodbye," a slow blues, ends the album on a bittersweet note, and Beddage wrings everything he can out of it with his bari. While not quite in the same class as Eden Bareket or Brian Landrus as a baritone saxophone improviser, Beddage is gifted with a capacious tone and the ability to write engaging compositions.
1.Pork Chop; 2. Drag and Drop; 3. Gravity; 4. Centrifugal Force; 5. Momentum; 6.
Axis of Rotation; 7. Angle of Incidence; 8. The Long Goodbye
Shirantha Beddage: baritone sax, piano (8), Fender Rhodes (3,6), bass
clarinet(2,5), alto sax, clarinet, flute (2); David Restivo: piano (1,3,4,5,6,7),
Fender Rhodes (2,8); Mike Downes: bass (1,6,7,8); Rich Brown: bass(2-5); Mark
Kelso: drums (1,6,7,8); Wiliam Kennedy: drums (2-5)
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