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Adam Rogers: Sight

John Kelman By

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Guitarist Adam Rogers returns with Sight, an album that continues his exploration of heady originals and standards, in the trio format that, with Time and the Infinite (Criss Cross, 2007), took a left-turn from his earlier quartet and quintet records.

Surrounded by friends old and new on Time, with Sight Rogers returns to longtime drummer Clarence Penn after that brief hiatus. John Patitucci may replace equally longtime bassist Scott Colley, but they're hardly new acquaintances. Rogers spent plenty of time with Patitucci in the studio and on the road with the late Michael Brecker's Quindectet project, Wide Angles (Verve, 2003), resulting in a trio chemistry here that possesses both that wonderful "first encounter" energy, and no shortage of established empathy between the individual players. That best of both worlds makes Sight an improvement over the undeniably fine Time.

As meticulous here as in his sideman stint with saxophonist Chris Potter's Underground on Ultrahang (ArtistShare, 2009), in the director's chair Rogers is more decidedly cerebral, with often knotty and unpredictable compositions and arrangements. That doesn't mean a lack of resonance, however. Rogers' title track grooves mightily, a modal tune that opens with a vamp which could easily ratchet into the red zone were it not for the same dark, warm, and woody tone that largely defines Rogers playing throughout the disc, the one exception being his fairly literal look at the balladic standard "Beautiful Love," that Rogers makes his own on nylon-string guitar.

After emerging as a chops-meister in the 1980s with Chick Corea's Akoustic and Elektric bands, Patitucci has evolved into one of his generation's most important bassists. His work in Wayne Shorter's nearly decade-old quartet has contributed to the revitalization of the legendary saxophonist/composer's career, and he brings a similar telepathic elasticity to Rogers' trio. He constantly juggles the role of anchor with that of lyrical foil, and while he clearly still has chops to burn it's never in service of anything but the music. The near-classicism of Rogers' "Kaleidoscope" finds Patitucci acting as contrapuntal partner and harmonic focus for Rogers, whose lithe, graceful lines weave in and out of this ethereal composition with the increasing confidence that's marked the guitarist's trajectory for two decades.

Penn engenders loyalty, whether with Rogers or trumpeter Dave Douglas, in whose electro-acoustic quintet he's held the drum seat since inception nine years ago. Here he creates a stable but flexible pulse to Rogers' complex rhythmic, harmonic, and temporal rearrangement of Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays" and a more faithful version of Woody Shaw's enduring "The Moontrane," the latter a song that—with brass removed and guitar its primary melodic and chordal instrument—still swings, but with in a lighter, more open-ended fashion.

When compared to Kurt Rosenwinkel's standards-heavy Reflections (Wommusic, 2009), Sight is a more challenging and overtly virtuosic look at music that spans decades. For a younger generation of players, it's clear that music at the very foundation of jazz continues to provide inspiration for ultra-modern exploration.

Track Listing: Sight; I Hear a Rhapsody; Kaliedoscope; Yesterdays; Memory's Translucence; Let's Cool One; Hourglass; The Moontrane; Beautiful Love; Dexterity.

Personnel: Adam Rogers: guitars, piano (1); John Patitucci: bass; Clarence Penn: drums.

Title: Sight | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Criss Cross

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