This album focuses on inspired jazz that is appealing to all listeners.
Steeplechase SCCD 31950
Andrew Rathbun (Tenor and Soprano Saxophones), Gary Versace (Piano), John Hebert (Bass), Tom Rainey (Drums)
Recorded October 2022
Rathbun performs in the post-bop jazz genre, yet his music is informed by classical composition. The CD is his latest from Steeplechase and is produced, mixed, and mastered by the renowned Nils Winther. The sound on this DDD recording is clean and crisp.
Rathbun is a unique voice on saxophone with a style and sound of his own. He has assembled a crack band that complements his stylings perfectly and offers much to the astute listener. After recording for over twenty years, it is time for him to receive more acclaim for his playing and his compositions.
All of the band members are important players on the New York scene having worked together for an extended period.
They breathe life into this set of Rathbun compositions. Taken as a group and as individuals, they are accomplished talented musicians. We are fortunate to have this recording to delve into their talents.
“Speed of Time” starts with Rathbun playing over a tight beat with the saxophone and piano echoing each other as the song unfolds. Rathbun proceeds to run through changes as the rhythm section drives the tune along.
The piano takes an interlude with strong support by bass and drums. Rathbun returns to the theme summarizing it over great cymbal work.
“Could It Be” starts with a pensive piano solo. A melancholy series of phrases states a subdued mood. Rathbun enters with a stately solo with probing notes over the bedrock of the band. Rathbun has total control over the saxophone playing without any vibrato.
“Widen the Doorway” sounds like Rathbun opened a door to a room filled with musical ideas led by his piano. Versace is an inventive pianist coaxing the music and the bassist and drummer.
Rathbun performs a brief acapella solo. Drummer Rainey shines on this tune with his elastic drumming.
“Wandering” is a soprano saxophone piece, reminiscent of Wayne Shorter. The melody is through composed with a thoughtful bass solo after the opening. The bassist plays with and against the drummer followed by the pianist slowly turning it into a piece for the whole band.
On “Fast Fifth” the pianist plays a series of fifths but Rathbun adds a note each time during the cycle giving the melody a slight ambiguity. The rhythm section provides the pulse of the song as the saxophone and piano dance about the striking melody.
“Velocity Unknown” was written to “… evoke the idea of speeding through life/time/space without really realizing how fast you are traveling.” The song proceeds
slowly as the saxophone and piano proceed probing the tunes melody. The piece was written a few years ago and composer Rathbun felt the band was up to the task of improvising on it.
“Still a Thing is a more upbeat swinging piece featuring Rathbun on both saxes. The band plays the melody with ample space for each to solo. Simply put a great song. This might be my favourite of the album.
This album focuses on inspired jazz that is appealing to all listeners. According to AllAboutJazz: “Andrew Rathbun is an artist who takes chances with his recordings. You don’t hear any paint-by-the-numbers jazz discs from him.” I couldn’t agree more. This CD is no exception.