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Footprints: When You Dream

Karl Ackermann By

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Saxophonist Joshua Kwassman and trumpeter Christoph Siegrist front this maiden effort from Footprints, a New York-based quintet that surpasses freshman potential and arrives entirely shaped in its own unique style. The sophistication of the compositions, and the maturity and innovation in the playing, all belie the fact that these are very young players. The two leaders have played impressive venues such as Dizzy's Club at Lincoln Center, the Montreux Jazz Festival and JazzPeru. Both Siegrist and Kwassman have played for, or recorded with, some great names in jazz such as Maria Schneider, Darcy James Argue, Chris Potter and John Scofield. Footprints' debut, When You Dream, is a broadly appealing collection of mostly original tunes penned by either Kwassman or Siegrist. The writing is symbiotic and thoughtful of the group dynamic, but very varied stylistically.

The influence of Maria Schneider is evident when Kwassman's "First Flight" opens the set; a fine tonal blend of sax and trumpet with pianist Fabian Ortiz, bassist Peter Yuskauskas, and drummer James Muschler layering the sound, creating the impression of a larger ensemble. The two-part title track features Ortiz's extended solo as the introduction, and is a first-rate display of his considerable keyboard talents. Ortiz segues into the much lengthier body of the eclectic track, which unfolds in up-tempo harmony, with Kwassman and Siegrist in the lead. After slowing the pace briefly, an inspiring group improvisation really starts to build up steam.

"His World Unheard" deserves its own accolades; at times almost melancholy, at others blistering—especially when Siegrist takes his solo on a rollercoaster ride. This is where Footprints excels, with its collective ability to control the mood then shift it dramatically, while keeping the music completely engaging. Ortiz again demonstrates an impressive approach and technique, bringing to mind a hybrid of Brad Mehldau and Abdullah Ibrahim. Throughout the collection, Yuskauskas and Muschler display the kind of consideration to color and relationship that shapes the sound, while restraining an obvious capability to break out on their own. It is a group dynamic that others have had to work through for many years more than this young band.

The only cover on When You Dream is Miles Davis/Ron Carter's under-recorded "Mood," which, like all the material on this recording, is superlative. Siegrist's playing is more fluid than in the original and played mostly in lower register. His playing recalls Tomasz Stanko more than Davis, and the stylistic nuance adds yet another new dimension. Kwassman's alto adds a striking touch to a hypnotic melody that still maintains a high level of energy. Footprints experiments with multiple styles, incorporating Latin touches, ballads and a bit of free jazz while presenting a cohesive program. The group's fearlessness of boundaries creates a limitless and open musical landscape. If When You Dream represents the early phase of development for this group of musicians, it's hard to imagine the magnitude of what they may produce in the future.

Track Listing: First Flight; Columbus; When You Dream (intro); When You Dream; Green Traveler; Of Time; His World Unheard; Blue World; Mood.

Personnel: Christoph Siegrist: trumpet; Joshua Kwassman: alto saxophone; Fabian Ortiz: piano (1, 3, 4, 6-9); Peter Yuskauskas: bass; James Muschler: drums; Glenn Zaleski: piano (2, 5).

Title: When You Dream | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Self Produced

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