Native Soul's debut album, Rough Jazz, can be viewed as an evolution from prudent bebop to hard bop with more soulful, daring rhythms.
On the first half of the record, Peter Brainin's tenor's blithe timbre provides melodies that are often overpowering; pianist (and Fender Rhodes player) Noah Haidu subtly pulls him back with low-register notes. During the CD celebration at Sweet Rhythm on July 6, Haidu's soulful riffs on the keyboard had an intense gravity that might have otherwise been overlooked on the record.
"Zen Baptist, an original track by Brainin, marks the point of punctuated equilibrium. The atmosphere suddenly becomes deeply evocative and earnest, and Brainin's phrases develop melancholy and mature qualities. Some brief improvisation at the concert also brought out an abundance of passion and soul. Saving the best for last, the quartet ended their first set with one of two compositions by the talented bassist Marcus McLaurine. His arrangements add considerably to the record's mature sound; the bassist, who has played with the likes of Clark Terry and Lou Donaldson, lends a solid grasp of form and timing.
McLaurine's adept solos on "Ivar were refreshing after his conservative lines on the previous tunes. Furthermore, the dynamic communication between McLaurine and drummer Steve Johns was illuminating, even though the duo started off slightly unorganized and off-key during the show. Near the end, Johns embarked on a flashy drum finale. Though his innate sense of rhythm was laudable, the solo itself was out of place against the bouncy melody.
Each musician is very much involved on every piece, so it's not difficult to understand their efforts to fit solos in wherever they can, but they can come off as forced and artificial, leaving the listener dissatisfied with the conclusions.
Nonetheless, the group's strong, easygoing interaction can be heard throughout Rough Jazz, which is commendable for its emotive progressionand a culmination of four musicians' wide and varied experiences and talents.
Rough Jazz; The Days of Wine and Roses; Descarga Calabaza; River's Edge; Neocon Blues; Zen Baptist; Looking Forward; Destiny; Ivar; Zen Baptist (reprise).
Peter Brainin: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute; Marcus McLaurine: acoustic and electric bass; Noah Haidu: piano and Fender Rhodes; Steve Johns: drums.
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