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Saxophonist Joel Frahm is an accomplished virtuoso with an easily recognizable style. He deftly balances an accessible, mellifluous sound with an explorative spirit. His tenth release as a leader, the captivating The Bright Side, is a collection of ten brilliant originals interpreted in a spare trio setting. The laid back atmosphere and the band's seamless camaraderie make for an engaging listening experience and the warmth, whimsy and intelligent motifs create the album's cohesiveness.
"Thinking of Benny" opens with bassist Daniel Loomis's sinewy reverberating refrains which lead to the tune's main theme. Out of this upbeat and clever head emerges Frahm's boisterous tenor which embellishes the melody with equal parts bravado and sensitivity. Loomis solos with eloquence, setting the stage for Frahm's duet with drummer Ernesto Cervini's elegant and reserved polyrhythms.
Cervini penned the contemplative "The Beautiful Mystery" which simmers with emotion and is laced with melancholy. Loomis again starts off with his resonant tones. Cervini's beats and cymbal crashes contribute a cinematic ambience as Frahm blows with wistful lyricism. The ensemble's spontaneous interplay blurs the distinctions between the composed and the improvised. The result is a haunting, goose-bump-inducing, piece.
Loomis composed "X-Friends" basing it on pianist John Klenner's most popular standard "Just Friends." The upbeat tune starts off vibrantly as the trio infuses their performance with humor and creative energy. Frahm honks and blows with gusto, tempered with a masterful command of his instrument, He successfully blends an unbridled joy with lithe agility and sophistication. Cervini's kit roars and thunders unaccompanied, building an exhilarating path to the concluding head.
Similarly the Frahm-penned title track is inspired by Lou Reed's iconic song "Walk On The Wild Side." After Loomis and Cervini play the famous riff, Frahm enters with soulful swagger and launches into an exuberant extemporization, replete with gleefully wailing lines. The rumbling of his sidemen drives the effervescent music with fiery passion. Loomis thrills with his intricate and lithe solo, and Cervini maintains the high momentum with his restless beats.
Over the years, Frahm has matured artistically and his ideas have crystallized. The Bright Side is his best release to date, one that showcases his versatility and inventiveness as a musician who has a wide expressive range, delivered with subtlety and confidence. Having a sympathetic pair of collaborators adds another layer of excellence to this delightful set.
Blow Papa Joe; Thinking Of Benny; Boo Dip Dip; Silk Road; Omer's World; Qu'est-Ce Qu C'est ; X Friends;
Beeline; The Beautiful Mystery; The Bright Side.