With a bassist still in his teens and a group leader that doesn't look much older, it would be easy to dismiss the Austin, Texas-based Tucker Rountree Sound as a collection of feisty youngsters venturing out of their depth by cutting a full-length record. But the Sound's new album, No Goodbyes
, exhibits as much maturity as puerility throughout its ably-performed set of eight originals written by group leader and guitarist Tucker Rountree.
"Vista" has a sweet melodic head that recalls the open, lyrical ECM sound. Guest trumpeter Marcus Graf plays the melody and makes it sing before launching into a swinging solo. When Rountree gets his turn, he displays a warm tone, sureness of touch, and an approach that crosses Eric Johnson with John McLaughlin. Upright bassist Daniel Durham also delivers a fine solo, and drummer Jason Friedrich is outstanding throughout with his sensitive use of dynamics and timbre.
The title track, "No Goodbyes," features guest pianist Andy Dollerson, who helps turn the cut into a highlight. The tune begins with every instrument hammering upon a syncopated chord until a pretty melody emerges. After a mellow Rountree solo, Dollerson ups the ante by steadily increasing the intensity of his own solo as Rountree comps underneath with fun rhythmic hiccups and a creative harmonization of the main theme. When the opening riff returns, Dollerson, Durham, and Friedrich pound out a brutally sensuous wash of sound that draws gritty guitar lines out of Rountree.
Problems emerge when the core trio of Rountree, Durham, and Friedrich plays by itself. "Telesa Joy" is dull in composition and execution. Another instrument would have removed the monotonous texture. "C# to Be" and "October Again" suffer from an affliction that affects many young musiciansthey confuse inspiration with imitation. These two cuts would seamlessly fit on any record by fellow Texan Eric Johnson. Nevertheless, they also feature sharp writing and soloingengaging Rountree and Durham solos, for example, raise "October Again" out of the silt of apery.
The strongest indication of the group's potential is "Premonition," where a smooth, straightforward melody unfolds before being suddenly interrupted by a change in rhythm and dynamics. Group interplay is at its peak here as the trio and Dollerson collectively rise and fall like the tide under hot solos by Rountree and the pianist. Friedrich's drumming continues to be exemplary.
In the end, No Goodbyes is an enjoyable listen that proves the Tucker Rountree Sound can play and write. These players' flaws, mostly products of their relative youth, do not diminish their achievements, instead bringing their potential for growth into sharper relief.