Double-bassist Iris Ornig leads a mainstream ensemble on New Ground, controlling the session's mood from the bottom and ensuring that melody flows casually. Trumpet, guitar and vocalists alternate feature roles that give the session variety. Best is her trio on "Caravan," where the bass assumes a seat-of-the-pants foundation that energizes and dresses up an old standard with class.
Trumpet and guitar come together on "New Ground" to give the quintet stepwise depth and rainbow harmony. Each instrumental voice takes its cue from the leader, assuming a gentle timbre and mellow attitude. The music swings comfortably while teamwork plays a vital role through unison passages and other shared choruses.
Fine and mellow, the session favors ballads that knit seamlessly along predictable, yet pleasurable acoustic adventures. Rebecca Martin sings a lovely hymn with support from acoustic guitar and piano trio. Nunga Babu lends his clear baritone voice to an easygoing blues that settles down favorably with soulful charm. He returns on the album's closing number, however, with a sign-off that fails muster through wobbly vocal tones and a too-loose ensemble setting.
Ornig's original pieces highlight peaceful settings and convey a smooth landscape. She uses an interesting line-up on "It's Time to Say Goodbye," where flugelhorn, double-bass and guitar form a trio that wades slowly through the lightweight ballad.
Several tracks allow the ensemble to drive straight ahead with a modicum of power. "Chicken Only on Sunday" features the piano trio with trumpet in a bluesy lope, while "Grateful Friendship" saunters with Latin steps and "What It This Thing Called Love" romps adventurously with the same instrumentation.
From Germany, Ornig studied jazz at several European institutions of higher learning before moving to New York in 2003. Her recording debut as leader, New Ground accentuates the simple beauty that can be achieved in jazz with patience and intuitive ensemble cooperation.
The Very Same Sensation; Grateful Friendship; Here I Go Again; Caravan; New Ground; Summer; Weisst du Wieviel Sternlein Stehen?; Let the Lower Lights Be Burning; It's Time to Say Goodbye; Chicken Only on Sunday; What Is This Thing Called Love; Sweet and Loveable.