Chris Potter, Brian Blade, Scott Colley, Craig Taborn, Adam Rogers, David Binneyultra-contemporary modern jazz composers, the latest winners in the Downbeat players poll, or jazzers deserving of a modicum of the hype swirling around the plus band of the moment? All of these, but also the list of participants on Binney's outstanding new Welcome to Life, issued on his own Mythology imprint. These all-stars have been at it for some time now, so this effort potentially marks their full transition in the minds of fans and critics alike from the "emerging" to the "established" category. In fact, all should be classified in the elite of the current vanguard, especially Binney, who released his first recording as a leader some fifteen years ago.
Appearing on more than fifty recordings and gigging with everyone from Aretha to Zorn implies the wide-ranging skill set that Binney has perfected to deal with his modern jazz muse. "Welcome to Life" propels us into the moment with unison piano and bass, conveying the tenor and alto horn section forward. Stating strongly together initially, the horns then alternate leading and following, leaning out over a sparser rhythm section breakdown, adding tension before releasing back to the gallop. This technique also introduces Adam Rogers' angular electric guitar solo, brimming with his almost-futuristic phraseology, amalgamating without appropriating the electric guitar's history of influence. Craig Taborn's done much the same on piano, drawing freely on his choruses here from Powell, Monk, Hancock, Tyner, Corea, and Jarrett, while settling in on none.
As players, all have that quality, drawing on the influences and inspiration of the greats to the point where lineage is broken and to the artistic place where chops become such a given they cease to matter. So much so, for instance, you won't be distracted by Rogers' expertise on acoustic slide or Binney's frightening facility on alto as notes blur into one, but rather become enraptured in the embrace of "Lisliel." Romance continues in the spiraling spell of the "Enchantress," spurred forward by Taborn's sequenced progression and lush voicings, abetting Rogers' bopped-out Martin steel and Colley's velvety turn. Binney's compositional acumen knows no stylistic bounds and leaves no loose ends, like "Frez," which seamlessly links M-BASE rhythmic explorations to ECM's pastoral lyricism.
A sobering indication of the current state of jazz affairs is included on the jacket: "Please visit davidbinney.com , mythologyrecords.com and artistshare.com . Tell your friends, as this is our future as musicians and listeners. We are on our own, as individual artists to bring music to the world. Please support us if you like what you hear"-Welcome to Life indeed! Invigorating that someone like Binney can so openly articulate and confront where we're at. On a release of this caliber, this statement confirms what we should acknowledgethings are going to get worse in the jazz marketplace before they get better. But with new standard-bearers like Binney and company firmly holding and boldly reinventing the mantle, things are bound to get better a whole lot faster.
1. Soldifolier, 2. Welcome to Life, 3. Lisliel, 4. Frez, 5. Our Time Together, 6. Sintra,
7. Enchantress, 8. Ici, 9. California
David Binney-alto, Chris Potter-tenor sax, Brian Blade-drums, Scott Colley-bass, Craig Taborn-piano, Adam Rogers-guitar