Danish-born saxophonist and composer Christian Winther moved to the New Orleans area in 1997, attended the University of New Orleans and performed regularly with some of the legends of jazz including pianist Ellis Marsalis and the late saxophonist great, Frank Morgan among many others becoming a much in-demand fixture in the city's rich and vibrant jazz scene thereafter. Delivering his fifth album as leader, Refuge in Sound is a remarkable album featuring all original compositions of post-bop material rooted in the traditional jazz experience. A jewel of an album that seems to sparkle all over, Winther and crew present a glowing landscape of contemporary jazz deserving of attention.
Convening a cast of young gifted players, much like himself, for this effort, the saxophonist calls on native Washingtonian D.C. pianist and composer Allyn Johnson, St Thomas, Virgin Island-born bassist Reuben Rogers and Virginia native Billy Williams, Jr. on the drums forming the core quartet for the album. Texas-raised, New York guitarist Mike Moreno appears on three tracks while vocalist Christie Dashiell joins the band on "One for Mulgrew," dedicated to the late piano icon Mulgrew Miller.
Winther makes an immediate impact on the rousing opening title track launching his fluid tenor voice on solo after solo as if he were exclaiming, this is my sound, my refuge, setting the stage for what's to come. Guitarist Moreno, the drummer and pianist Johnson also weigh in on the beginning piece as they do on the following "Looking Back," a delicate mid-tempo semi-ballad with more of the leader's pronounced voice. Bassist Rogers sets up perhaps the most heated tune of the recording on the burning up-tempo "Outsider" featuring sharp solos from the saxophonist and strong, solid work from the rhythm section highlighted with moments provided by the guitarist, Johnson on the keys and the drummer.
The mellow spot of the recording goes to the lovely and gentle "Tell Me Your Truth" offering an opportunity for the leader to display a softer side of his play as he does so warmly here. Other notable tracks well worth a listen and repeated spins are, the crispy and lyrical "Blues Life," the beautiful "Sleeping Giant," offering a superb exchange between the saxophonist and pianist and finally, the finale piece entitled "Tune for Trane," no doubt, a tip of the hat to the jazz icon John Coltrane who, by the way, Winther proceeds to do a splendid musical impersonation of on this closer.
There's no question about Christian Winther's or his band mate's musicianship on this album however, it's the quality of his compositions on Refuge In Sound, that make this exciting session of jazz thoroughly engaging from beginning to end.
Refuge In Sound; Looking Back; One For Mulgrew; Outsider; Tell Me Your Truth; Blues Life; The Sleeping Giant; Tune For Trane.
Christian Winther: tenor saxophonist; Allyn Johnson: piano; Reuben Rogers: bass; Billy Williams Jr.: drums; Mike Moreno: guitar (1, 2, 4); Christie Dashiell: vocals (3).
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