Jazz is at the forefront of the cultural renewal taking place in Brooklyn, and saxophonist David Bindman has been a quiet but leading force in that movement. Sunset Park Polyphony brings together members of the stellar quartet that last recorded under the leadership of percussionist Royal Hartigan on Blood Drum Spirit: Royal Hartigan Ensemble Live in China (Innova, 2008), with Bindman extending the original group to a sextet with the addition of the brilliant trombonist Reut Regev and trumpeter Frank London. The addition of these two horns gives the ensemble a different feel, as the sound alternates between lush and powerful.
Those familiar with Bindman's earlier work with saxophonist Fred Ho, bassist Joe Fonda and his Brooklyn Sax Quartet know that he is very adept as an improviser. The free jazz approach plays a somewhat greater part in Sunset Park Polyphony, compared to Bindman's prior work with Hartigan. "Shape One" opens the set as a vivid and unpredictable statement that never rests and features an inspired solo from pianist Art Hirahara. "Long Line Home" and the adjacent title track flow together in an additive process where fundamental harmonies are overlapped with complex patterns.
"Robeson House" opens cinematically and then accelerates, as Hartigan builds the tension using the whole drum kit. At almost thirteen minutes, the piece is a platform for Bindman's considerable skill as a composer. Drawing on complex time signatures he blends global influences so that no one reference point dominates the piece more than the emotion of the players. In contrast, "The Transient" features some very nice horn harmonies from Bindman, Regev and London, reminiscent of Colin Towns' Mask Orchestra. Hartigan's contribution, as well as bassist Wes Brown, is often so subtle that it is easy to miss its complexity and importance in moving through the labyrinth of Bindman's compositions.
With Bindman's wealth of musical experience, it would be easy to lose pure spontaneity, but Sunset Park Polyphony consistently possesses an organic feel. Bindman and the ensemble imbue the spirit of enjoyment even as they adhere to an implication of social responsibility. They relate stories that are held together by collective musical memories. The ensemble's wide range of cultural appreciation is not a euphemism for world music. This is exceptionally creative jazz, at times played with great subtlety and sometimes with wild abandon.
CD1: Shape One; Long Line Home; Sunset Park Polyphony; Robeson House Echoes. CD2: The Transient; Singing Bird Melody; Icarus Flies Towards the Sun and Returns; Invisible Dance; Singing Bird Reprise; Recurring Dream; Unspoken; Robeson House Reprise.
David Bindman: tenor saxophone; Wes Brown: bass; Art Hirahara: piano; Royal Hartigan: drums; Frank London: trumpet; Reut Regev: trombone.