It's difficult to describe an ensemble that's built around a vibraphone without using words like "glowing" or "luminous." Thanks to the mallet prowess of Steve Nelson, Dave Holland's bands, big and small, have those shining qualities. And so does Ben Adams' quintet on Old Thoughts for a New Day.
Adams and his group shape their sound without the input of a more traditional chording instrument (piano or guitar). This set walks a line between traditional and modern with an edgy aplomb. The leader's vibes often "glow" in the middle of things, an accompaniment mode he steps out of often for some dynamic, "luminous" solo turns. On the one hand, it's a standard quintet lineup: trumpet and tenor sax with a bass/drums/vibes rhythm section. On the other hand, the quintet's sound reflects an original approach, in large part due to a deft mix of different musical personalities which come together to form a cohesive ensemble blend.
Up front, trumpeter/flugelhornist Erik Jekabson and tenor saxophonist Mitch Marcus sound like a Jekyll and Hyde pairing. The trumpet solos feel relaxed, always in an easy flow, while the sax parts wind up the intensity with a contained neuroticism, like the blowing of some crazybut very talentedstreet musician. Check out "The Actual" for a good example of this dynamic. The rhythm section (bassist Fred Randolph, drummer Sameer Gupta and Adams) moves forward like a flexible drive-train, churning ahead with a densely viscous lubrication.
Old Thoughts for a New Day presents a unique and interesting sound from a remarkably in-synch, modern-leaning ensemble.
Avery's Bedtime Song; Conversation with Martin; Patron Saint of Lost Causes; The Actual;
Sheltered Circle; Old Thoughts for a New Day; Pocket Fiction; Ghost at Infancy; Sea of Cortez.
Ben Adams: vibraphone; Erik Jekabson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Fred Randolph: acoustic bass;
Mitch Marcus: tenor saxophone; Sameer Gupta: drums.