Born in Seoul, the now-Montreal-based pianist Min Rager made the move to the west to attain a jazz education, landing at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University, where she now teaches.
Rager has chosen the quartetsaxophone and rhythmas her form of expression for her third CD release, Train Of Thought. It's all originals, beginning with the title tune, a spirited ride that rolls along just a bit left of center from the mainstream with an edge of modernity and a boxcar full of originality. Saxophonist Kenji Omae sounds like a cross between Jackie McLean and Art Pepper, with his searing intensity combined with a push-the-boundaries approach. Rager jumps into an extended solo early, with a crisp and distinctively personal style, ebullient and free-rolling. Then Omae blows back in, and the train hits a downgrade and picks up serious momentum. An exhilarating ride.
"Beautiful Journey" begins as a ballad then slips into a mid-tempo pensiveness. Saxophonist Omae chooses a lot of notes, very well. Rager, and bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Dave Laing lay down a steady and near orchestral backdrop.
Rager and Omae present a duo tune with "I Never Felt This Way," a tune that bounces with Rager's joy, and that the saxophonist tries to set on fire. "Say What You Mean" moves back to the quartet setting, on a lively romp featuring another one of Ranger's singular solos. They disc closes on a bluesy, let's-kick-back-with-a-drink, wee hours rumination, "Let's Be Cool." And that's what the quartet does: they be cool.
Train Of Thought; Beautiful Journey; I Never Felt This Way; Say What You Mean; Dedicated To You; I Wish I Was There; Moonlight Dance; Let's Be Cool.
Min Ranger: piano; Kenji Omae: tenor saxophone; Fraser Hollins: bass; Dave Laing: drums.
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