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JC Sanford with Anthony Cox and Michael Cain: New Past

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JC Sanford with Anthony Cox and Michael Cain: New Past
Although he has shown himself to be adept in crafting big-band releases such as Views from the Inside (Whirlwind, 2014), trombonist JC Sanford usually works in a pared-down setting, such as his quartet release Keratoconus (Shifting Paradigm, 2019) or, more recently, the two volumes of his trio-based Imminent Standards (Shifting Paradigm, 2021 and 2022). Here he continues this trend, joining with two veterans, pianist Michael Cain and bassist Anthony Cox, for a mix of Sanford's own compositions and a couple of well-chosen covers.

Both Cain and Cox have extended resumes which date back to the '80s, including a release they made with James Newton and Billy Hart, If Love (Jazzline, 1990), and they play with veteran instincts, knowing exactly how to complement each other and combine gracefully with Sanford. None of the three would qualify as ostentatious, and they are content to leave space in the music for reflection and nuance. Even the opener, "Sparrows are Badasses," driven by an energetic bass ostinato, manages to stay somewhat restrained—although Cain's wide-ranging, impressionistic solo enlivens the piece and sparks some heady momentum. Pieces such as "Avocado," which Sanford wrote with the help of his 8-year-old daughter, or "followfellowflow," a knotty track with plenty of room for shared improvisation, are more typical of the temper of the album, placing the emphasis on careful, deliberate mutuality. Strong themes are present, but they never get in the way of the rich conversations which emerge as the three musicians sound each other out and respond both empathetically and intuitively.

At times the music sounds almost too tentative. One might wish for a bit more spunk on a piece such as Thelonious Monk's "Evidence," for instance, which takes a while to find its groove. The Latin inflections of "Choro de Familiaris" also lack a certain verve. Wayne Shorter's "Toy Tune," the album's other cover, is better suited to the trio's modus operandi, with its elliptical musings matching the subdued, enigmatic feel of the record. And "Tones of Tamuras" offers just the right amount of abstraction, as the piece's dedicatees, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii, would undoubtedly agree. Here Sanford's use of electronics augments the track's slightly off-kilter sensibility, as the trio seeks to balance a subtle lyricism with oblique indirection.

New Past is not one of those albums which screams for attention. But it does have its charms, and patient listeners will appreciate Sanford and colleagues' perceptive, searching interactions.

Track Listing

Sparrows are Badasses; Avocado; Choro de Familiaris; followfellowflow; Evidence; Tones of Tamuras; Toy Tune; Some Moments are Eternal.

Personnel

JC Sanford
composer / conductor
Anthony Cox
bass, acoustic

Album information

Title: New Past | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Shifting Paradigm Records


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