may not be the most well-known jazz musician on the planet but he's certainly one of the best. His early life was spent in Tokyo, and Washington, then moving to Los Angeles at the age of 18. He travelled to Amsterdam and India where, in the spirit of The Beatles and John McLaughlin
he assimilated much of that country's music. Finally he moved to New York in 1993 where he made his debut recording Fire
. For this debut Whirlwind release he's assembled a stellar line-up of musicians and they certainly deliver the goods. Robert Hurst
's bass solo opens "Alawain" a mid-to-fast paced bluesy number evoking early 1960s John Coltrane
with Jeff "Tain" Watts
effortlessly conjuring-up the ghost of Elvin Jones
. The slow title track is yet another clue as to Armacost's influences with a very Ornette Coleman
-esque approach, of whose work there is more to hear later in this set. Armacost's sinuous sax leads the trio along a hypnotic path lined with crisp drums and resonant bass.
"The Next 20," a graceful ballad, is even more satisfying by dint of the addition of guest pianist David Kikoski
's and is followed by a lively trio interpretation of Thelonius Monk
's "Teo," the first of two cover versions featured on the album. The relaxed feel to "Sculpture #2Tempus Funkit" evinces reminiscences of early Sonny Rollins
. "One And Four" harks back to the Coltrane sound with Kikoski's presence deftly adding a necessary harmonic counterpoint to the piece. The second cover, Ornette's timeless classic "Lonely Woman" is realised in a trio context and is all the more effective for that, squeezing every last drop of pathos out of the tune.
The title of "53rd Street Theme" is obviously a play on Thelonius Monk
's "52nd Street Theme." Likewise the playfully frenetic "Sculpture #3All the Things You Could Become in the Large Hadron Collider" adopts a similar joke title to that of its earlier inspiration, Charles Mingus's "All The Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud's Wife Was Your Mother." The clever asymmetrical counterplay between the sax and piano works perfectly, a genuine wonder to behear.
The most telling characteristic of this album, aside from the first class musicianship, is that the truly lyrical inventiveness of both Armacost's compositions and playing doesn't wane one iota within the chordless trio context, but with the addition of guest David Kikoski
the music transmutes into another dimension. This is music of the very highest quality and proves that jazz doesn't have to be iconoclastic to be both intellectually absorbing and viscerally appealing.
Alawain; Time Being; Sculpture #1 – Phase Shift; The Next 20; Teo; Sculpture #2 – Tempus Funkit; One and
Four; Lonely Woman; 53rd St. Theme; Sculpture #3 – All the Things You Could Become in the Large Hadron
Tim Armacost: tenor saxophone; Robert Hurst: double bass; Jeff “Tain” Watts: drums; David Kikoski: piano.