On March 18, 1990, two thieves went into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and made off with thirteen works of art, paintings and drawings by masters such as Rembrandt, Degas and Vermeer plus a couple of antique artifacts. To this day, the works have never been recovered and the museum still keeps the empty frames that held them on its walls. One day trumpeter Jason Palmer visited the museum and noticed the empty frames. He eventually learned the story of the theft, researched the missing paintings, which can be seen online, and composed a suite of music for them, heard here in a 2019 live concert recorded in New York.
The music is performed by an excellent quintet, with Palmer joined by Mark Turner on tenor saxophone, Joel Ross on vibraphone, Edward Perez on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums. Ross' brittle but dreamlike vibes form a malleable middle layer between the sharp rippling of the horns and the spiky rumblings of the rhythm section. The compositions cover a variety of moods, conveying Palmer's impressions of the various paintings. "La Sortie de Pesage" has the horns blowing softly in unison on a laid-back melody, with Ross embellishing their sound before plowing into his own luminous solo. "Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee" slowly builds from Scott's rattling solo introduction to a slow r'n'b groove, adding Perez, and finally into a faster tempo with the entire group which contrasts Ross' languid elegance with broad swooping and rolling by the trumpet and tenor.
"A French Imperial Eagle" is a frolicsome samba featuring Palmer in especially passionate form. "Program for an Artistic Soiree" and "Self Portrait" are notable for the drily cool and subdued melodies Palmer and Turner twist and tumble through, like dancers, before soloing with graceful fire. Perez' and Scott's subtly driving support is also outstanding here. "Landscape with an Obelisk" moves from placid calm through a rumbling drum interlude to explosive and relentless unison horn play. "Three Mounted Jockeys" rides the set out, with Palmer and Turner essaying lyrical runs over a constantly moving rhythmic vamp.
The members of this quintet mesh very well together. Palmer and Turner make great foils for each other. Perez and Scott are an elastic and adaptable rhythm section and Joel Ross provides illumination and accents which give the music a special buoyancy. Inspired by works of art, Jason Palmer has created a suite of music which stands up as outstanding art in its own right.
CD 1: A Lady and Gentleman in Black (Rembrandt); Cortege and Environs do Florence (Degas); La Sortie de
Pesage (Degas); Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee (Rembrandt); A French Imperial Eagle Finial; Chez
Tortoni (Manet). CD 2: Program for an Artistic Soiree (Degas); An Ancient Chinese Gu; The Concert (Vermeer);
Landscape with an Obelisk (Flinck); Self Portrait (Rembrandt); Three Mounted Jockeys (Degas).