Tina Richerson Trio explores groundbreaking textures on new album


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The outer limits of jazz is where saxophonist Tina Richerson resides, a world in which experimentalism becomes the unifying thread. On the latest album from the Tina Richerson Trio, Up Against the Rail!, traditional jazz is given a slap, flirting with dissonant or uneasy textures. In other words, it actually tosses jazz back into the groundbreaking sonic landscapes that once enabled it to light the world on fire. Up Against the Rail! is a visionary work, one that finds order in chaos, playing with atmospheric noise while unveiling indelible hooks.

Balancing the iconoclastic attitudes of avant-garde jazz with the soulful precision of the old school, Up Against the Rail! manages to rattle the senses and soothe the nerves simultaneously. For the most part, Richerson's saxophone is cast as the eye of the storm. On “Faithless," her gritty playing is brimming with character and spunk; it consistently weaves its way through the unpredictable waves caused by Rueben Radding's mood-spinning double bass and Andrew Drury's pounding drums, which abruptly explodes in a volley of glorious banging near the end.

Unlike other jazz acts who explore the genre's fringes, Richerson isn't afraid to sound sweetly tuneful, either. On the band's version of Ewan MacColl's “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," popularized in 1972 by Roberta Flack, Richerson captures the song's hopeless romanticism with lush, gentle strokes. Of course, Richerson always adds that extra twist, such as the running water that opens the cut. One of the most compelling adventures on the album is “Improvisation IV." Radding's ominous bass lines reel in unsuspecting listeners who are then greeted with eerie background clanging; Richerson's steady sax seems oblivious to it all, minding its own business like a silent witness in a murder mystery.

Based in New York, Richerson echoes that city's edgy, streetwise energy but also the cloudy melancholy of her Pacific Northwest roots.

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