Although he is a relative newcomer as a bassist and composer, Kenneth Jimenez
keeps some pretty distinguished company. One of his current projects, Sonnet to Silence, marshals the talents of some avant-garde heavy hitters, pianist Angelica Sanchez
, drummer Gerald Cleaver
, and saxophonist Hery Paz
. His partners on Sublunary Minds
, his second disc as leader, aren't quite as well-known, although Miami-based pianist Jim Gasior
and drummer John Yarling
are ideally suited to Jimenez's well-constructed compositionspieces that find a congenial equilibrium between measured contemplation and untethered exploration.
It is tempting at first to call this is a "piano trio" but, of course, that's not quite right, given that it's Jimenez's band. More fundamentally, it is really not accurate to see the piano as the lead instrument here; rather, all three players work on equal terms in creating music that has a strong organic aspect. It is not purely "free," by any meansalthough there is something about Jimenez's approach that invites his partners into the process of creation, so that their contributions are essential to the final product. So, on a piece like the album's lead track, "Snowblind," once the trio announces the sprightly odd-meter theme, the piece opens up so that all three players can advance their ideas simultaneously. Never does one get the impression that Jimenez, or even Yarling, is merely in a "support" role. As a result, there is a steady sense of movement and flux, as each piece feels like it could (and does) take multiple directions before its conclusion.
The element of the unexpected is a fixture of these pieces. "Infinita Rosa Violeta" begins with a fleet solo from Jimenez before taking on a stately ruminative quality, sounding like it might venture safely into chamber-jazz territory; but before long the pulse loosens, with Yarling becoming a more active presence in bending and then accelerating the tempo, freeing Jimenez and Gasior to take things in a more adventurous direction. Or take "Lester Aleman," as an ominous opening from Jimenez's arco bass and Gasior's thundering lower register gradually gives way to open improvisation that moves into something much more forceful and assertive, with Yarling and Gasior eventually drawing Jimenez into a whirlwind of notes to end the piece. And, although this is not what you would call groove-heavy music, there are certainly moments in which the trio stirs up a stimulating mix of rhythmic energy, as on "Thirty Miles" or "Not More Lovely Than Full of Glee," where contemplative sections give way to more animated excursions in an enticing way. The closing track, "Hell Is a Cold Place," ends with particular vigor, as Gasior's stentorian chords and Jimenez's insistent ostinato merge powerfully with Yarling's percussive punches.
Given the way the trio works so well together, the high-quality production efforts of Eivind Opsvik
should be mentioned. With Yarling in the left channel, Gasior in the right and Jimenez solidly in the center, they can be followed easily and independently, something critical for close listening since each has always got something vital to contribute. Yet, in the end, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts on this very promising recording. Jimenez already has a compelling artistic vision, and it will be exciting to see where it leads him in the future.