In recent years jazz groups have begun to give themselves names that give nothing away about their composition or style. The TransAtlantic Collective bucks the trend with a name that offers a more helpful description of itself: a group of musicians from the USA, Britain and mainland Europe. American saxophonist Patrick Cornelius, British trumpeter Quentin Collins, Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu, UK-based American bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Paul Wiltgen from Luxembourg were college friends whose occasional get-togethers have blossomed into a tight and energetic quintet. Traveling Song is their first album: a recording of predominantly original compositions in a straight-ahead contemporary style that showcases their talents well and provides a strong base from which the band can develop.
Traveling Song includes one standard, Cole Porter's "It's All Right with Me." The song starts strongly with Randalu's piano, and although Cornelius' saxophone playing is rather restrained there is enough originality in the arrangement to justify its inclusion. The remaining eight tracks display the group's compositional strength, with every member except Randalu contributing at least one tune.
Drummer Wiltgen's first contribution, "Danse Triste," is a beautiful, slow and haunting number that begins with some fine soprano sax, underpinned by Randalu's piano. Cornelius' "Minor Steps" and "New Blues" give the entire quintet the chance to stretch out, and feature some fine up-tempo work from Janisch and Witgen. Collins' "Tu Mas" spotlights some beautiful interplay between the composer and Cornelius before the trumpeter steps in with a lyrical solo over a tight rhythm section. It's noticeable that each band member's compositions are not simply used as showcase pieces for their writers, they are written to maximize the Collective's individual skills and talents, ensuring that each instrument adds to the effectiveness of the tune rather than being played simply for the sake of it.
There is always a danger that collections of old friends can exclude outsiders, deliberate or not. In a jazz context this can mean that the friends play to please themselves with little apparent interest in pleasing others. The TransAtlantic Collective sounds like the musicians are pleasing themselves, but with no sense that those outside the group are being ignored. Traveling Song is an involving and refreshing piece of work.
Track Listing: Turns Out; It's All Right with Me; Danse Triste; Minor Steps; Traveling Song; Tu Mas; Precisely Now; Brother Gabriel; New Blues.
Personnel: Patrick Cornelius: saxophones; Quentin Collins: trumpet; Kristjan Randalu: piano; Michael Janisch: bass; Paul Wiltgen: drums.
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