Occasionally sees saxophonist Pat Donaher reflecting on a few milestones in his life to date. He does this by writing and performing compositions which are all dedicated to occasions and people that have been special to him.
Donaher's varied set of tunes is played here by an excellent group with Jason Palmer on trumpet, Tim Watson on guitar, Carmen Staaf on piano, Tony Scherr on bass and Allison Miller on drums. Two selections celebrate family weddings. "Wedding Day," for his brother's nuptials, is a placidly optimistic track dominated by Donaher's serene alto sound. "Valiant on Valance," for a cousin's New Orleans wedding, has a rolling groove where Donaher, Palmer and Staaf all strut coolly as Scherr and Miller lay down a lively beat with a slight Second Line bounce. "Whoosh/Oomph," for Oomph, a former band of Donaher's, has Scherr and Miller doubling down on the funk while the two horns make high-spirited leaps, and Watson contributes fuzzy tangles of electric guitar. "D2," for Donaher's twin nephews, is similar but with Miller playing more of a go-go rhythm, Donaher and Palmer twisting over the rhythm like the horn section of the Average White Band, and Watson leaning heavily into feedback.
The quieter vibe of "Wedding Day" continues on "624 (What We Imagined)." The title refers to a jazz classroom at the Eastman School of Music where Donaher studied. The piece is played by only the leader, Palmer and Staaf, and has a weighty classical feel with alto and trumpet interweaving gracefully over Staaf's steady impressionistic piano. It is reprised by the entire group on "624 (What We Became)." Everyone plays with more authority, and Allison Miller's drums crash powerfully. "Black Suits, White Smoke" was written in memory of the funeral of Donaher's father. Here, trumpet and and alto sax sail together over cascading piano waves, and turn both reflective and probing in their solos. "Bouncin' Off the Walls," about life during quarantine, carries some of both the lively and quiet approaches heard elsewhere. The rhythm section keeps a taut, funky beat going while Donaher and Palmer play out-of-sync solos which go from woozy slowness to fast shrieking. Watson's guitar noises add a further disorienting element.
Pat Donaher is very good at conveying different moods in his writing, and his musicians dive into the music with relish. Everyone sounds fully engaged on this session, and all the players really bring out the best in his tunes,
Wedding Day; Whoosh/Ooomph; 624 (What We Imagined); Valiant on Valance; Black Suits, White
Smoke; D2; 624 revisited (What We Became); Bouncin' Off the Walls; Warm and Fuzzy.