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Great chefs can make a delicious meal out of just a handful of ingredients. So can great musicians. A simple omelet prepared from happy free range chicken eggs, plus some freshly plucked basil can set the palate reeling. For a jazz chef like saxophonist Jonathan Moritz, his simple fresh ingredients includes a trim ensemble of bassist Shayne Dulberger, drummer Mike Pride, and just some sketch recipes in which the trio can mix, mash, mince, and marinate.
Secret Tempo opens with the unadorned "Medium," followed by "Fast" and, as suspected, "Ballad." His stock titles hint at the non-proprietary nature of his compositions, meaning he allows his talent, and that of Dulberger and Pride to flesh out each piece. Thus, the secret tempo of each track is the journey the trio chooses to travel. Give Moritz lemons, but don't expect lemonade. He begins "Fast" with a traditional 4/4 tempo, then slices and dices time into a blender of sound. Pride, a veteran improviser in his own bands Bacteria To Boys and Drummer's Corpse, and as partner with inventive players like Jon Irabagon, Darius Jones, Tony Malaby, and Mary Halvorson charges full throttle, before full-stop and another direction is chosen. The music is a combination of recipes and improvisations. Moritz's saxophone draws from Coleman Hawkins to Ornette Coleman. He can apply a traditional swing before shredding some extended saxophone technique. On "Ballad," he preheats with a sprinkling of Sonny Rollins-speak, as Dulberger kneads a bass line, flouring it with colossal notes.
The bassist features on "Harmony," using swirling bowed notes as Pride plays a blasé swing and Mortiz mines some bluesy notes. The anything-can-happen nature of this recording suggests that this trio will give a new and interesting performance of these pieces every time they play. The culmination of the session is certainly "7779," a beyond-jazz piece that relies on a repeated bass motif and infectious rhythm that opens the music into a cathartic (almost rocked out) sound. The piece completes the album as if all the ingredients have been combined, and are now ready to serve.