Back in early March of 2020, tenor saxophonist Daniel Rotem was gathering a broad swath of West Coast talent for his next studio album. He was organized and had plans in motion, but the world had other ideas in mind. Everything quickly shut down and Rotem, like the rest of the global music community, found himself shifting priorities and exploring other outlets. He completed his first feature film score, wrote an orchestral work for the the Los Angeles Jazz Society, and, fulfilling a dream long imagined, recorded this solo album.
Pausing to explore the emotional impact of the moment, and using his horn as the sole vehicle for expression, Rotem delivers a series of improvised performances along with several composed works added for good measure. With supreme skill, artful phrasing and a personalized subtone sound, this tenorist manages to capture the imagination and spin it on the axis of uncertainty. Opening with "Looming Skies," he lives and breathes for darting phrases. Taking the horn through its paces, Rotem travels up, down and around its passageways with a focused zeal. "The Steps We Need to Take" trades in a more patient form of probing. Then, continuing along a course unfixed, he rides wind currents down and around on "Free Fall," explores the fear of loneliness while toying with tone production and air flow's tensions on "Autophobia," and takes a harmonically outlined, bop-influenced look at how we're all together while apart through "United Loneliness."
The aforementioned improvisations speak to living in the moment, but the pre-composed inclusions aren't without the element(s) of surprise too. "Be Nice" the title track from Rotem's 2017 debutstands as a lengthy and hip character study drawing power from motivic material on the rhythmic and melodic side(s). "Within the Drops There is a Lifetime" plays to a spiritual plane and Hebraic roots in its prayerful tones. And "Heal" finds Rotem sighing and hoping in counterpoint, overdubbing one horn line around another.
Rather than acting as a substitute for the full band studio album that had to be tabled, Solo "serves as an expression of yearning for the musical reunions to come." Those are Rotem's own words and they speak truth to sound and meaning. No others can truly suffice to sum up the spirit of this engrossing set.
Looming Skies; The Steps We Need to Take; Free Fall; Within the Drops There is a Lifetime; Be Nice; Autophobia; United
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.