Given all the well-deserved attention that drummer Dafnis Prieto
has been getting lately, it's understandable that one of his projects, the Kairos Sextet, is eager to acknowledge its debt to that supremely polyrhythmic composer and bandleader. But, make no mistake, this is a band really coming into its own, with plenty to say and a collective spirit that defines its independent identity quite convincingly. The eight exciting tracks on its debut album, Transition
, herald an auspicious beginning to what will hopefully be a long recording career.
Formed initially under Prieto's guidance, at the Frost School of Music, the sextet shares Prieto's love of rhythmic dynamism and interesting compositional detours; it does a cover of a Prieto piece, "Triangles and Circles," which has his trademark approach to harnessing a complex architecture to an infectious groove. But the members of the Kairos Sextet are no slouches when it comes to their own songwriting, as four of them get a turn at it on this disc. Pianist Nick Lamb
gets the prize for the most irresistible one as he penned the album's title track, which crackles with vitality, built around a gripping piano cadence, and creative use of the band's three-horn attack. When soprano saxophonist Tom Kelley
's tempestuous solo heads into the ether, and his partners, tenor saxophonist Sean Johnson and trumpeter Sam Neufeld
surge underneath him, the effect is powerful indeed. Not to be outdone, Johnson and Kelley contribute their own fine compositions, with Kelley's "Sunspot" bringing things down to a low simmer with a thoughtful mid-tempo piece that provides Kelley, Neufeld and Lamb the chance to stretch out on some scintillating solos, while Johnson's "(No) Time to Spare" is, as its title suggests, a tricky-meter workout that also gives Johnson plenty of room to craft a tenacious, wide-ranging solo.
Crucial to the success of the record is, firstly, the consistent quality of these compositions. These aren't just blowing vehicles; they have strong melodic hooks, and the complexity of the tracks never feels gratuitous, as it simply allows new dimensions to emerge with each hearing. And, secondly, the rhythm team of bassist Jon Dadurka
and drummer Johnathan Hulett is spot-on when it comes to keeping the propulsive energy of the music in abundant supply. Dadurka is equally adept on both acoustic and electric bass (and he's a fine composer too, as showcased on the richly-hued "On and On"), and Hulett is a powerhouse, providing support, contrast, and intensity as needed. The band really works together as a single-minded unit with a common purpose, and Dadurka and Hulett are at its core.
A terrific release that is likely to end up on many "best debut" lists for 2018, Transition
is well-named, as it signals the arrival of a promising group truly finding its own path.
Transition; Sunspot; (No) Time to Spare; On and On; Triangles and Circles; Dafnison; I Remember You; Thrive.
Tom Kelley: alto and soprano sax; Sam Neufeld: trumpet; Sean Johnson: tenor sax; Nick Lamb: piano, keyboards; Jon Dadurka: upright and electric bass; Johnathan Hulett: drums.