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Robin Verheyen: Starbound

Dan McClenaghan By

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Belgian-born/ New York-based saxophonist Robin Verheyen has crafted, on Starbound, an engaging form of lively chamber jazz—a label that often denotes a more sedate listening experience.

Verheyen plays tenor and soprano saxophones, but here leans more toward the straight horn. The set opens with a spring-in-its-step romp, "On the House." The ensemble bubbles and burns, as pianist Bill Carrothers lays down quirky grooves behind Verhayen's sugary tone, while bassist Nicolas Thys and drummer Dre Pallemaerts sizzle along with implacable momentum. It's a cool four minute stretch of interplay, full of surprises.

The lyrical Verheyen original, "Boechout," slows the pace. Carrothers is as unconventional and beautiful as ever in his accompaniment. As on the entire disc, the sound has a very organic, stream-of-consciousness feeling, and off-the-beaten-path loveliness.

Verheyen's title tune is a concise and sparkling piece of high-energy interplay that leads into the album's more inward centerpiece—and highlight—"Lamenting." The wandering, haunting introspection features the leader on a dark-toned tenor sax in conversation with Carrothers' spare, wistful notes, on a tune that gathers momentum in the direction of saxophone anguish before it gives way to the piano's disconsolate mood.

The leader has assembled a distinctive sound on Starbound, one that steps out of the shadows of "Lamenting" into the bustlingly sunny "Roscopaje," with an atmosphere that brings to mind John Coltrane. On "Waves," Verheyen explores the pure-toned, flute-like upper register of his horn in front of the subtle, nuanced ensemble whisperings. "Long Island City" careens joyously through those city streets and features a rollicking Carrothers solo.

Starbound, Verheyen's Pirouet Records debut, proves to be a distinctively off-center and fully engaging set of sounds with satisfying depth.

Track Listing: On the House; Boechout; The Flight of the Eagle; Starbound; Lamenting; Roscopaje; Waves; Long Island City; Narcis; Tree Line; I Wish I Knew.

Personnel: Robin Verheyen: soprano and tenor saxophones; Bill Carrothers: piano; Nicolas Thys: bass; Dre Pallemaerts: drums.

Title: Starbound | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Pirouet Records


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