One of the questions that always seem to be raised about original compositions addresses the issue of whether or not they hold the promise of longevity. It's a question that seems especially pertinent here.
Drummer Dylan Ryan has come up with a programme of compositions here which, while they might lack something from the melodic point of viewthere are certainly no obvious hooksshow a depth of character that puts them well beyond the time-honoured line for blowing on that might once have been a hallmark. This is most evident on "Cry Of The Locusts," where a mood of unsettled languor prevails, the evocation aided in no small part by Andra Kulans' viola.
Elsewhere, fitting the music into some free-bop continuum seems a little spurious, not least because the working methodology comes from a different, darker place. Even Ryan's solo introduction to "Let There Be Neon" seems to serve only to set up what follows. Any baser egotistical concern comes a distant second.
It is still true to say that this music would not be half as successful as it is if the soloists were found wanting, and there is ample evidence here that they are equal to the demands of the occasion. Bassist Greg Danek is a model of economy on "Return To The Woods," while trumpeter Patrick Newbery readily calls to mind no one other than himself on "Lionheart." The skewed line of "Bears Of Illium" seems almost tailor-made David McDonnell's alto sax, and he manages to find an area of tranquility that is anything but obvious, given the nature of the piece.
It might just be that listeners would be doing themselves a favour if they started to alter their expectations with regards to that division between time-honoured compositions and originals, especially as this amounts to a body of music that makes its deep and positive impression by travelling along an original route. The absence of obvious antecedents only makes it more refreshing.
Bears of Illium; Let There Be Neon; Fuzball in Valhalla; Girl We Couldn't Get Much Higher; Lionheart; Cry of the Locusts; Twin Unicorns; Return to the Woods.
Nick Broste: trombone; Greg Danek: bass; David McDonnell: alto saxophone, clarinet; Patrick Newbery: trumpet; Dylan Ryan: drums, vibraphone, piano; John Beard: guitar (3); Andra Kulans: viola (6).