Daniel Rotem & Josh Johnson Quartet: Sweet Stuff

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Jordi Pujol’s Fresh Sound label is devoted, among other things, to documenting the creativity of jazz on the west coast of America. Rotem and Johnson are two of the brightest newish names on the Los Angeles scene. Each has a freshly rounded, cool yet charged sound along with a matching capacity for pliable thematic exposition in their phrasing. Overall, Sweet Stuff is an attractive document of the mature yet questing breadth and depth of their approach to both repertoire and group interplay.

The album title comes from a minor gem of a ballad by Horace Silver; Monk is here (We See, Let’s Cool One) and so is Herbie Hancock (Sonrisa), Benny Golson (Along Came Betty) and Ornette Coleman (When Will The Blues Leave?); Billy Strayhorn (Chelsea Bridge) and Joe Henderson (Serenity). Add in the standard All Or Nothing At All and you have just under 50 minutes of airily interwoven yet penetrating, finely crafted music to delight intellect and senses alike.

A little research on the two saxophonists revealed the diversely nurturing impact of Messrs (and Masters) Lester Young and Wayne Shorter, which should give you a fair idea of what to expect here. The absence of a piano serves both to free things up and to underline the literate awareness of four excellently attuned musicians.

There’s a lovely, spacey bounce to the grooves laid down by Boneham and Euman (hear the pizzicato-swung and brushes-caressed Betty, in particular) but the leaders can also get (poetically) abstract at times, as in their near-ethereal duo take on Hancock’s Sonrisa. The quartet’s lovely ride-out on Coleman’s take on the blues wraps things up to irresistible effect, concluding an album to which I aim to return many a time.

Discography
(1) We See; Chelsea Bridge; All Or Nothing At All; Let’s Cool One; Serenity; Sweet Stuff; Along Came Betty; (2) Sonrisa; (1) When Will The Blues Leave? (48.33)
(1) Daniel Rotem (ts); Josh Johnson (as); Alex Boneham (b); Christian Euman (d); (2) as (1) but Boneham and Euman out. Glendale, 17 May 2017.
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 563