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The development of jazz as an art form can be expressed in terms of study, technique, and application, but the real proof in the pudding is whether the music moves the listener. Saxophonist Gian Tornatore's debut recording, Sink or Swim, exhibits these qualities in an impressive fashion.
On the academic end Tornatore is a graduate from Berklee, and has studied with saxophonists Joe Lovano, and George Garzone. The fact that his first major gig at the age of 16 was with the '70s and '80s female rock group Heart is an interesting tidbit but it's his own voice as a jazz musician that takes center stage on his self produced recording.
On the technique side, Tornatore's voice may not sound as polished as some, but it more than fills in the gap with a soulful and free presence as he equally demonstrates his skill on both tenor and soprano. It always nice to hear original material and six out of the eight compositions show off the saxophonist's writing and arranging qualities with music that is poised, reflective, and of the present.
His band for the occasion includes a tight set of musicians who perform the music with energy and honesty. Individual highlights thrive, such as the quartet swings with fire on "Three's a Crowd," as Zach Wallmark gives a stellar bass solo. Jon Anderson's dual combo attack with either piano or Fender Rhodes is a switchup as he performs with complete coolness on the ten minute opener "For RPMS." Miles Davis' timeless composition "Nardis" showcases an impressively hot drum solo by David Christian, which develops into an equally explosive drum and sax battle.
There's quality and truthfulness in the music of Sink of Swim that may clearly identify with discriminate listeners who want more than just an academic persona in their music.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.