Intricate compositions often provide the best substrate for complex and satisfying improvisation. This holds true for the New Jazz Composer's Octet's The Turning Gate
, which includes five short compositions and one long suite made up of six movements. Each piece serves as a vehicle for group interplay and interpretation, and as a platform for one or two of the musicians to exhibit their improvisational skills during individual solos.
The six-movement "Faith Suite" (the last two movements appear first, out of order, then the first four come in a row) is the centerpiece of the album. Composed by Xavier Davis
, it features solos by the pianist throughout, plus a different horn solo per movement.
The rest of the tracks are far from fillers around this longer work; in fact, they all stand alone as interesting and accomplished musical inventions.
The music is more edgy than neo-classical post-bop jazz, but not quite as adventurous as an avant-garde record. The compositions, although by different musicians, maintain a unity of theme and feeling without ever being monotonous or repetitive. They are a bit rough on the edges but, despite that, are quite enjoyable even after a couple of listens.
There are hints of 1950s-60s Duke Ellington
and, even though there are only eight of them, the group gives the impression of being a larger band.
Trumpeter David Weiss
is the ensemble's nominal leader, but this is very much a democratic group, with each musician demonstrating instrumental mastery and, in some cases, prowess at composing memorable pieces.
There is a lot of compositional and improvisational talent involved here, and the musicians are very much in sync with each other. Although memorable, this may not be groundbreaking enough to be considered a classic, but it definitely whets the appetite for more from the Octet in the near future.
Track Listing: The Turning Gate; New (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego); David and Goliath; Once; Bad Alchemy; The Faith Suite (In the Beginning; Twilight; The Doubtful; Panic); Onward.
Personnel: David Weiss: trumpet, flugelhorn; Myron Walden: alto sax, flute (10); Jimmy Greene: tenor sax and soprano sax, flute (8); Steve Davis: trombone; Norbert Stachel: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Xavier Davis: piano; Dwayne Burno: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.
Title: The Turning Gate
| Year Released: 2009
| Record Label: Motema Music