Saxophonist Jon Raskin does not need an introduction as he is one of the most accomplished improvisers alive today. Both as a member of the renowned Rova Saxophone Quartet and with his other ensembles, Raskin has been at the forefront of creative music for over four decades. On the brilliant Synergy Signals, he joins forces with two intrepid Bay area artists, pianist Chris Brown and bassist Jason Hoopes, as well as the venerable Russian drummer Vladimir Tarasov for a genre-defying set of stimulating originals.
The solemn "Emergent" has a zen like ambience and a dark mysticism. Tarasov's expressive and nuanced percussion anchors Raskin's meandering, introspective saxophone. Tolling tones from Hoopes and Brown add to the tune's spirituality. Within this atmosphere the individual musings start off serenely yet grow in tension and angst. Raskin lets loose turbulent lines, Brown contributes poignant sonic swirls, Hoopes anchors the interplay with his complex, muscular refrains and Tarasov drives it with his thundering beats. This dramatic sense culminates in the conclusion as single notes shimmer and chime within an evocative silence.
In contrast "Open Passages" is like an avant-garde film soundtrack. Each musician peppers his performance with blues-tinged melodic fragments. This together with the soulful swagger of the rhythmic framework gives the piece a definite "jazz" sensibility. Tarasov's agile tempo variations have a cinematic flair, while Hoopes' conversational phrases brim with lyricism. Raskin extemporizes with reserved passion and Brown adds a haunting dimension to the collective performance with his dense and resonant chords.
Elsewhere, "Gateway" is delightfully incendiary and opens with the crash of roaring drums and wordless shouting. Brown's spontaneous pianism flows with crystalline patterns over Tarasov's tumultuous polyrhythms. Raskin blows with fiery abandon, adding honks and squawks to the dynamic repartee. Hoopes' lithe and vibrant reverberations together with Brown's spirited piano manipulations, and Tarasov's restless cadences create a captivatingly dissonant backdrop for Raskin's saxophone's eerie and ethereal sound.
Synergy Signals is the kind of album that immediately hooks the listener with its raw energy and innovative ingenuity . It is thought-provoking and packs a visceral punch. With this collaborative release Raskin and his colleagues have created a unique work of sublime balance that thrills and rewards both emotionally and intellectually.
Gateway; Foldover; Inch by Inch; Magnetic Fields; Open Passage; Emergent.
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