South

COMPOSERS: David Binney
LABELS: ACT
PERFORMER: David Binney (ss, as, sampler), Chris Potter (ts), Adam Rogers (g), Uri Caine (p), Scott Colley (b), Brian Blade, Jim Black (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 9279-2

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Florida-born saxophonist/composer David Binney has served in the ranks of some extremely prestigious and influential jazz outfits – the big bands of Gil Evans and Maria Schneider, the smaller units of Bobby Previte and Cecil McBee among them – and this album of his compositions for sextet, while strikingly original, audibly draws on this wide-ranging experience.

His skilful use of subtleties of timbre and texture occasionally brings both Evans and Schneider to mind, his exploitation of the sustained climax is reminiscent of Previte’s work, but the neat, naggingly memorable themes with which this album is filled are clearly the work of a considerable – and highly individual – compositional talent.

While not through-composed – all the participants, the cream of the New York jazz scene, are allowed ample space to express themselves – Binney’s pieces are very much more than the straightforward, occasionally downright perfunctory excuses for blowing over hospitable changes that too frequently constitute jazz compositions.

‘Leaving the Sea’, for instance, beginning as a haunting lilt, slowly builds to a rousingly jaunty riff over an irresistibly infectious rolling rhythm, then after creating a delicious tension with a free-ish interlude, climaxes in a delightfully rambunctious finale; ‘New York Nature’ is a masterpiece of tightly controlled garrulity with another stunning climax; ‘Traveler’ and ‘South’, while gentle, restrained pieces notable for delicacy and unpretentious complexity, linger in the mind with the persistence of pop songs.

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Binney’s alto-playing, too, makes an immediate impression: insinuating, pleasantly grainy, passionate where required, it contrasts tellingly with Chris Potter’s poised virtuosity on tenor and blends perfectly with Adam Rogers’s eloquent guitar. With the limpid elegance of Uri Caine spearheading a faultless rhythm section, South is simply superb music, impeccably performed, and deserves to be widely heard. Chris Parker