"Spring is Here." A bittersweet notion says Bryn Roberts on his album Present Tense. The Rodgers and Hart chestnut receives a rather moody makeover that competes with the Bill Evans version in its gloom quotient.
The group from Canada often resembles Keith Jarrett or any number of his label mates on ECM. The music skirts the line between achingly beautiful and morosely introspective. This music, while not always terribly exciting (track four "Forty" initially sounds a little like the trolley to Mr. Roger’s Land of Make Believe), is the perfect chilly Sunday afternoon music. Down here in Texas this makes the band a little exotic. This music born of the great white north is the soundtrack to detached longing and painful estrangement. Images of snowy mountains and icy winds pique this listener’s imagination.
At times the music does pick up. "Praxis" for example swings pretty hard. Generally, though the tunes quickly drop to a simmering flame. The music persistently floats, flirting with melody and form. Bryn Roberts’ icy arpeggios and runs celebrate the sadness. Not really happy stuff but easily recommended to fans of Gary Burton and ECM. "Handwriting" typifies Bryn Robert’s approach, beautifully inward-looking and recommended for those who do not fear music both pretty and smooth.