Adam Larson: Second City

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
When you hear "Second City" and think about improvisation, comedy comes to mind before jazz. But this music is no laughing matter. Saxophonist Adam Larson is one serious talent, as this, his fourth album to date, makes clear.

While Larson has called New York home for the past decade, Second City was recorded in its namesake locale—Chicago. It's an album rooted to Larson's Midwestern upbringing but a statement of maturity that could only emerge after some serious time away from the roost. New York has done him well, as these eight tunes demonstrate.

With bassist Clark Sommers, pianist Rob Clearfield, and drummer Jimmy Macbride by his side, Larson digs into a variety of different settings with aplomb. For starters there's "Who Even Is That?," an excitable introduction that speaks to the annual arrival of jazz musicians pursuing their dreams in The Big Apple. Then Larson delivers "Out The Window," a more reflective number that takes cues from his young son's piano explorations and features a wonderfully pensive statement from Sommers; "First Step," strutting with some NOLA swagger and offering a little space to Macbride; a "Smells Like Teen Spirit" cover which takes an airier, groovier, and more developed approach than The Bad Plus' famous rendition that initially drew the leader to the song; and "Sleep Now," an appropriately soothing lullaby that Larson penned for his son pre-arrival.

Some of the greatest shows of strength on Second City come toward its end. "Perpetuity," born of observations on politics and the polemics that come with it, is a lift-off into the stratosphere that gives Larson a chance to flex his muscles and fly. Then "Uphill Climb" goes the other way, probing into the surface to see what comes of the struggles to make your mark and get yourself heard as a musician in New York. Both numbers speak to a resolute streak in Larson's sound and standing, as does the excitable "Breakout," a piece which closes the album and showcases Clearfield's clear-headed explorations and Larson's extreme flexibility. There are no missteps or missed opportunities here. No matter how you slice it, Second City proves to be first-rate.

Track Listing: Who Even Is That?; Out the Window; First Step; Smells Like Teen Spirit; Sleep Now; Perpetuity; Uphill Climb; Breakout.

Personnel: Adam Larson: tenor saxophone; Rob Clearfield: piano, Rhodes and Wurlitzer; Clark Sommers: bass; Jimmy Macbride: drums.

Title: Second City | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Inner Circle Music


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read A Night Walking Through Mirrors CD/LP/Track Review A Night Walking Through Mirrors
by Barry Witherden
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jondo CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jazz Flute Traditions CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Flute Traditions
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Nerve Dance CD/LP/Track Review Nerve Dance
by John Sharpe
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Déjà Vu CD/LP/Track Review Déjà Vu
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts CD/LP/Track Review Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 20, 2017
Read "Triloka: Music for Strings and Soloists" CD/LP/Track Review Triloka: Music for Strings and Soloists
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 16, 2017
Read "All My Treasures" CD/LP/Track Review All My Treasures
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 20, 2016
Read "ScratchBop" CD/LP/Track Review ScratchBop
by Mark F. Turner
Published: January 28, 2017
Read "Autumn Tales" CD/LP/Track Review Autumn Tales
by Chris Mosey
Published: June 20, 2017
Read "Blow + Beat" CD/LP/Track Review Blow + Beat
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 8, 2017
Read "By A Thread" CD/LP/Track Review By A Thread
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 18, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.