Ukrainian bassist/composer Konstantin Ionenko introduces a striking new quartet on Noema. His previous release Deep Immersion (Fancy Music, 2013) was a quintet with piano, trumpet and saxophone. Only Ionenko and drummer Pavel Galitsky remain from that group, joined by new members Dima Bondarev (flugelhorn) and Alex Maksymiw (guitar). There was precedent for working with a guitarist, in the form of the Deep Tone Project, which he co-led with guitarist Alexandr Pavlov on the album Flow (Fancy Music, 2014). Both of those releases had Ionenko on electric bass. He plays upright bass here, which I suspect is his preference: he has a big, full-throated sound on the instrument.
This music leans more towards the impressionistic contemporary jazz of the Deep Tone Project than the hard-bop oriented Quintet. The flugelhorn/guitar combination makes for a lighter ensemble sound, well suited to the generally mellow mood. The title "noema" derives from the Greek word for thought or the object of thought, and Ionenko says the music is "about the philosophy of consciousness and feeling." It is indeed thoughtful music, but feeling is never absent. The aptly titled opener "Kaleidoscope" includes the full stylistic spectrum. After a brief fanfare from the full band, flugelhorn and drums get an extended duet: but by the end there's a swing section with walking bass. "Imprinted Acerbity" is all atmosphere, bass in the lead with guitar volume swells and cymbal splashes (fluegelhornist Bondarev sits this one out). "Far Out" doesn't seem to deliver what the title promises (perhaps it's meant geographically instead of stylistically), but it's an attractive tune, followed by the lovely ballad "Glassy."
"Four Doors" features an unaccompanied guitar opening by Maksymiw: like most of his playing on the record, he delivers lyrical mainstream jazz guitar in a modern setting. Ionenko gives himself the unaccompanied spot on the following "Prelude," a contemplative, rubato piece. The title tune and "November" are as gentle as the titles imply, the last giving drummer Galitsky the opportunity for expressive brushwork. A beautiful ending to a beautiful album; Ionenko continues to grow as composer and bandleader with each new release. The CD comes in an equally striking package, a gatefold with an abstract, impressionistic pastel image that captures the mood of the music. ECM fans should take note.
Kaleidoscope; Imprinted Acerbity; Far Out; Glassy; Four Doors; Prelude; Noema; November.
Dima Bondarev: flugelhorn; Alex Maksymiw: guitar; Konstantin Ionenko: bass; Pavel Galitsky: drums.
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