Multi-instrumentalist Tom Rainer is a genre-defying artist who has a uniquely accessible style with a cinematic approach to orchestration. The enjoyable This Way is made up of several of his own compositions as well as a few covers, all of which Rainer and his quartet interpret with sophistication and elegance.
The funky title track, for instance, features Rainer leading from the piano with a clean and crisp cascade of notes. Overdubbed woodwinds add a soulful touch to the background while mellifluous collective vamps contain catchy hooks. Rainer suavely embellishes the main melody while the quartet buoys him with its expansive sound.
Rainer and guitarist Thom Rotella meld their sashaying, latinesque lines for the textured and shimmering tune, "Blue Aria." Subtle electronic enhancements to the performance imbue it with reserved and simmering passion and a dramatic sense. Rainer adds some spontaneity to the main theme with his resonant pianism.
The tender, "Secret Heart" features overlapping saxophones and clarinets which built a sonorous yet intimate introduction to Rainer's melancholic improvisation. There is an understated symphonic feel to the piece as synths alternate with reeds over drummer Ralph Humphrey's percolating and effervescent beats.
Another highlight of the album is "Circle" with its elliptical contemplative structure. The piano with its bittersweet tones glides over the band's rhythmic flourishes. Bassist Trey Henry takes a lyrical solo which perfectly fits with the overall introspective ambience.
The entirely acoustic "Trio Vision" showcases both Henry and Rainer's improvisation skills to their fullest. Each takes their turn in the spotlight, while Humphrey's brushes and sticks color the backdrop with muted hues.
Rainer's first release as a leader after a fourteen-year hiatus is delightful and engaging. It underscores his versatility and superb musicianship. Even though it doesn't break new ground, This Way makes for a relaxing listening experience.
Blue Aria; Circle; This Way; Yes Kloose; Secret Heart; Trio Vision; Rhapsody; Desafinado.
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