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With The Sage, Jason Rigby has composed an album that’s thought-provoking without being pretentious, accessible without being insubstantial. Rigby is a fine saxophonist who builds coherent ideas gradually without over-emoting, the sign of someone in complete control of his craft.
The fluid themes and textures of “Magenta” recall an Ornette Coleman-type of opening, with drummer Gerald Cleaver thrashing impatiently above the slowly developing motif. Trumpeter Russ Johnson picks up Cleaver’s tempo, then hands it off to Rigby, who sprints away passionately on tenor. The tight brass arrangement and Mike Holober’s Rhodes musings on “Crux” bring the second great Miles Davis Quintet to mind. None of this is hollow mimicry; Rigby uses these points of reference as blueprints from which to construct his unique statements.
At times the members appear to be playing different songs but in the end everything is on time and meshes perfectly. Rigby shows off his admirable skill on the flute for the pensive “Shift of Color,” on which Holober takes a star turn. Listen to Johnson’s querulous trumpet plunger on “The Archer” or the way bassist Cameron Brown’s bold plucking sets the pace for “Slip.” Rigby and Johnson play beautifully together throughout the disc and the rhythm section of Holober, Brown and Cleaver is rock-solid and dynamic.
If ‘atavistic’ isn’t the right word to apply to The Sage, it’s certainly correct to say that this disc is in the finest tradition of collective improvisation. The diversity of Rigby’s compositions and arrangements shows that he knows how to write for, and listen to, his bandmates. This quintet’s synergy and interplay is guaranteed to energize any listener.
Track Listing: Magenta; Crux; Shift of Color; The Sage; Tone Poem; Slip; The Archer; Jealous Moon.
Personnel: Jason Rigby: tenor, soprano saxophones, flute; Russ Johnson: trumpet; Mike Holober: Fender Rhodes; Cameron Brown: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.