It's not often that a debut CD by a young artist brims with great playing, complex, soulful compositions, and exceptional group chemistry. But that's exactly what happens on Geoff Vidal 's She Likes That
. Vidal is a young tenor saxophonist from New Orleans whomuch like fellow Big Easy native Rob Wagner
wields a big, bluesy "bull tenor" in the mold of Tony Malaby
, Clifford Jordan
and Booker Ervin
. On She Likes That
, Vidal is backed by highly talented young players who imbue his excellent original compositions with fire and spontaneity.
Most noteworthy is the dynamic, creative drumming of Makaya McCraven
. A busy, bold player, McCravenwhose father, Steven McCraven, is a drummer who's played with Sam Rivers
, Arthur Blythe
, and has led a few sessions of his ownhas a crackling fresh, distinctive approach to the kit. Frequently, he refers to funky New Orleans second-line rhythms, as on the CD's opening track, "Darjeeling." Joe Hundertmark's finger-style guitar sound is a bit reminiscent of Kevin Eubanks
. Like McCraven, Hundertmark is a no- holds-barred soloist whose non-jazz influences peek through Vidal's jazz-based music in an appealing way. This is most evident on the closing title track, a hard-rocking foray that nods both towards early '70s fusion (à la Mahavishnu Orchestra
) and the so-called post-rock of contemporary bands such as Tortoise
That said, the remainder of She Likes That
is energetic post-bop with a free-bop edge, rather like the Dave Holland
Quartet circa Extensions
(ECM, 1990). The original compositions, written by Vidal and Hundertmark, are smart and multi-themed with lots of interesting rhythmic and harmonic twists and turns. Several tunes, notably "Darjeeling" and "O-Zoning," mate relatively simple, hummable opening melodies to lengthy, chops-busting second themes that grow organically out of the first. It's a fascinating ploy, and Vidal much to his creditdoesn't overuse it.
Both Vidal and Hundertmark indulge their lyrical side on a couple of tunes. Vidal's "Time Apart," the CD's sole ballad, has a dark, pensive mood, while Hundertmark's "Lanusa" is a shimmering moderate tempo piece with an irresistible melody that lingers long after the tune is over.
While Vidal and his band offer excellent playing and distinctive compositions throughout, She Likes That
is one of those recordings that has that certain je ne sais quoi
that keeps it in the changer, or on the iPod playlist, indefinitely. The entire CD literally explodes with creative energy and the sheer excitement and joy of music-making. More please!