On Pogo, French-born saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh remembers the wise lesson that "If it's not broken; don't fix it. Though his recording label has changed, this release consists of the same quartet members and eclectic formula that made his acclaimed release North (2004, Fresh Sound New Talent) such a success.
A thorough technician with control and lyricism, Sabbagh's saxophone may seem slightly obscured but is seemingly focused more on the development of his compositions and the group's sound, rather than on his individual chops. The music is realized by the more-than potent rhythm section of bassist Joe Martin and drummer Ted Poor, and the wonderful guitar-isms of Ben Monder. Over the past few years of performing together, they've bonded, learned, and are continuing to define their sound.
Drawing inspiration from the piano-less quartets of John Scofield and Sonny Rollins, Sabbagh's own piano-less group brings his own brand of urban/rural that could be heard in a café in France or a seedy bar in New York. The guitar/sax combo has been a favorite of the saxophonist's and he takes advantage of his rapport with Monder, as witnessed on the languid tempo of "Rooftops, as their voices flow together almost effortlessly.
Some of the tunes sound familiar, such as the proficiently swinging "Middle Earth and the bluesy hard-rocking "Stand Up, which seems like a reprise of the popular North tune "Sick Leo .
But there are surprises, like the dream-enhanced "Moon/Sun, a slowly built tune featuring interesting chord impressions and elaborate drumming by Ted Poor. The middle-eastern tinted "Hamra is also an ear-opener, with Martin's pulsating bass, Poor's nice percussive work, and Sabbagh and Monder bringing up the rear with a snaky melody.
Along with his own concepts, background, and musical training in Paris and the U.S., Sabbagh's unselfishness is a primary factor as the group is given autonomy to express itself whether on the title "Pogo, which plays out like a rock concert encore or the warm shades of the ballad "Eye of the Storme.
Middle Earth; Rooftops; Moon/Sun; Stand Up; Pogo; As One; Hamra; Eye of the Storme.
Jerome Sabbagh: tenor, soprano sax; Ben Monder: guitar; Joe Martin: bass; Ted Poor: drums.