David Binney: Aliso (2010)
Saxophonist David Binney's resume boasts of diverse stints with Maria Schneider, Craig Taborn, and Uri Caine among many others; a wide range of styles with the best musicians, composers and arrangers in jazz. While the scope of his talents as both a player and composer are recognized by his fellow musicians, wider public recognition has still been somewhat elusive. Though Binney's playing has always been inventive, it has also had an element of restraint that seemed to hold it within an arbitrary boundary. Aliso could be the release that changes that perception of Binney. As he has mastered the expression of succinct melodic phrases, he has also become comfortable letting the boundaries fall.
The mainstays of Binney's quartet once again surround him but now with the addition of guitarist, Wayne Krantz. Bassist, Eivind Opsvik, whose own Overseas trilogy is an outstanding collection, the equally innovative pianist, Jacob Sacks and long-time collaborator, Dan Weiss on drums make up an particularly gifted quintet. Out of the gate Krantz takes a very rock-oriented approach on the title track, signaling more free-wheeling sounds to come. Krantz's participation is limited on Aliso but provides an adrenalin shot where it surfaces.
"Toy Tune" is a real force in this collection. It begins as an almost retro mainstream piece but quickly changes tempo after Binney's solo morphs into an improvisational form. This gives way to a brilliant solo by Sacks that similarly balances a melodic discipline with a freer improvisational feel. What follows, "Strata" works like a continuation with Binney and Sacks trading solos, tempos and styles but within a unified context. The two combined tracks are 18 minutes of outstanding music.
Sam Rivers' "Fuchsia Swing Song" is another stand out piece and an appropriate one considering that the original was considered a bit over the top by Miles Davis. Binney's arrangement has a faster tempo without sacrificing the melody; the improvisational aspects are borne out in remarkable solos from Binney, Sacks and Weiss, respectively. The definitive track here is John Coltrane's "Africa." John Escreet's mid-song solo is stunning and establishes the mood for everything that bookends the 13 minute piece. Binney grabs on the end with his second solo in the piece with emotion and abandon. Aliso should provide higher-level public domain recognition and a later than appropriate breakout for David Binney.
Track Listing: Aliso; A Day in Music; Toy Tune; Strata; Teru; Fuchsia Swing Song; Bar Life; Think of One; Africa.
Personnel: David Binney: alto saxophone; Wayne Krantz: guitar; Jacob Sacks: piano (2-6, 8); John Escreet: piano (1, 7, 9); Eivind Opsvik: bass; Dan Weiss: drums.