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Adonis Rose: On the Verge

John Kelman By

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While rhythm is as fundamental to mainstream jazz as changes and melody, to denizens of New Orleans it's even more elemental. Drummer Adonis Rose may have left the Crescent City in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but it hasn't changed the approach he's honed on two previous releases as a leader—Song for Donise (Criss Cross, 1998) and The Unity (Criss Cross, 1999).

On the Verge brings back three collaborators from these earlier releases—trumpeter Nicholas Payton, saxophonist Tim Warfield and bassist Reuben Rogers—but Rose changes pianists this time, enlisting the increasingly ubiquitous pianist Aaron Goldberg and a relative newcomer, vibraphonist Warren Wolf (last hear on trumpeter Jeremy Pelt's Identity (MaxJazz, 2005)). The result, while never short on groove, covers considerable dynamic territory rather than being as consistently hard-hitting as one might expect from a drummer-led session.

That's not to say there isn't some bodacious energy to be found on this largely original set of eight tunes, featuring four from Rose and one each from Goldberg and Warfield. The fiery 9/8 theme of Rose's modal title track is urgently propelled by Rogers and Rose, who light a serious fire under Goldberg's Tyner-esque solo, Warfield's potent tenor and a vibrant solo from Wolf that suggests, if there's any justice, that he'll be heard more from—and soon. Rose takes his most visceral solo of the set over Goldberg and Rogers' ostinato before curiously ending, seemingly in mid-sentence.

Rose's "Liyah's Blues swings hard, with a straightforward stop/start melody that opens up for strong solos from everyone, but especially Payton, whose tradition-centricity is equally expanded by his forward-reaching ideas, supported and urged on by Rose, Goldberg and Rogers. The shifting tempos and cued sections of an imaginative take on Jimmy Heath's "Gingerbread Boy make it fit within the context of the originals, and breathes new life into this enduring classic.

Elsewhere the material ranges from the deceptive simplicity of Warfield's late-night ballad, "Lies in Beauty, to the organic and relaxed 5/4 pulse of Goldberg's "Shed. Two extended versions of Rose's soft but nevertheless rhythmically insistent "Robin in Pink blend the cerebral with passionate understatement, while the set closes with flautist Hubert Laws' "Shades of Light, its gentle Latin vibe acting like a cool-down from the workout of the preceding title track.

On the Verge is a down-the-middle set of contemporary straight-ahead jazz that's not likely to shake any foundations or introduce any significant innovations. But with a set of engagingly diverse material and committed performances by Rose's sextet, it's an album that makes a case for the continued validity and modernity of the mainstream tradition.


Track Listing: Robin in Pink I; Liyah

Personnel: Adonis Rose: drums; Nicholas Payton: trumpet; Tim Warfield: tenor and soprano saxophones; Warren Wolf: vibraphone; Aaron Goldberg: piano; Reuben Rogers: bass.

Title: On the Verge | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Criss Cross

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