Lucas Pino's No Net Nonet has claimed a piece of turf within the vast, sprawling, crowded field of the jazz mainstream. Its brilliantly conceived and executed efforts resist additional stylistic distinctions. Teamwork, mutually reinforcing concerns and a spirit of adventure infuse the seven tracks of That's A Computer. The compositions and arrangements by the leader, as well as one apiece by alto saxophonist Alex LoRe and guitarist Rafal Sarnecki, are bold, invigorating and rife with details that linger in memory. You can grab hold of the melodies, even when they're relatively brief. The arrangements often give the impression of an entity being taken apart, deviously scattered about, and eventually reassembled in a somewhat different, albeit recognizable form. Stability in the face of change and a congruence of written and improvised passages are the norm.
A five-year, monthly residency at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City has made the band tight, gutsy and barely able to contain its enthusiasm. Everyone sounds deeply invested in and emotionally connected to the music. The things that the Nonet execute with aplombchanges in tempo, shifting time signatures, subtle and radical dynamic changes, pregnant pauses, a wide variety of textures, long and short themes, brief interludes, as well as riffs that complement and stimulate the soloistsare all essential, yet the bottom line is that every cut is companionable and absorbing, not to mention frequently exhilarating.
That's A Computer contains too many stellar moments to fit into a short review; besides, perhaps they're best discovered by each listener. Nonetheless, several examples merit mention. The tranquil effect of unhurried interplay by the rhythm section (Glenn Zaleski on piano, Desmond White on bass, Jimmy Macbride on drums, and Sarnecki's guitar) introduces LoRe's "Antiquity." Changes in tempo (fast to slow-to-medium) and feel (straight-ahead swing to funk and back) on Pino's "Horse Of A Different Color" insinuate inevitability, not contrivance. Sarnecki's crystalline tone enlivens every track, particularly when coupled with one other instrument, most often Zaleski's piano. A fog of overlapping long tones by the horns, minus the rhythm section, initiates Pino's ballad "Film At 11." The peaceful dialogue between the wordless vocal of Camila Meza and the horns breaks the silence at the onset of Pino's "Frustrations." Sarnecki layers terse, kinetic themes that jostle one another, complete for attention, and bring on the wild ride of "Sueno De Gatos."
The theme from "Baseball Simulator 1000," a classic video game of the late 1980s, amounts to ninety-five seconds of jubilant celebration. Inspired by Macbride's deep pocket funk drums and the horns' jaunty, persistent statement of the theme, Pino's tenor gleefully spits out a number of acerbic phrases. It's a fitting conclusion to an extraordinary recording.
Antiquity; Horse of a Different Color; Film at 11; Look into My Eyes; Frustrations; Sueno de Gatos; Baseball Simulator 1000.
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