What joy to encounter a jazz album that strikes such a fine balance between solo and ensemble, echoes now and then with another genre of music, features lean and compressed arrangements, releases controlled but high-voltage energy, and alludes to emotional states and predicaments beyond its remit of music as absolute.
Canadian pianist Renee Rosnes, based in New York, surrounds herself with illustrious company for a compendium whose title ventures beyond private experience. Evermore has its origins in an improvisation of hers on a J. S. Bach sarabande and takes baroque sensibilities along with it, encompassing not least an arco solo by bassist Christian McBride that’s long-breathed and cello-like. There’s a comprehensive dignity that compounds the musical form and period to which it refers. Passing Jupiter is a space odyssey; in places it echoes Gustav Holst, and follows a trajectory that avoids McBride’s picturesque representation of interstellar meteors and detritus. Silk, with its metropolitan bustle, is dedicated to pianist-composer Donald Brown.
All the charts and their arrangements are by Rosnes, who keeps both her pianistic presence and her virtuosity in check but not imprisoned, wedding the keyboard in melodic statements to Chris Potter’s saxes and flute and allowing Carl Allen’s kit and Rogério Boccato’s percussion to bubble away beneath the surface of those tunes determined to be on the boil. Potter is ever onwards and upwards in the mid-tempo, 16-bar, swinging episode of The Golden Triangle, and his flute is gleefully fixed to the piano in the fluid aerial manoeuvres that start and end Life Does Not Wait.
The bop-flavoured Swoop’s intricate unison head prefaces harmonic changes that would test even the most intrepid risk-taker, but Rosnes, Potter (on tenor) and McBride are up to it. Blessings In A Year of Exile is a tentative paean to survival following 2020, when a lot of bad things happened. That such good things should arise in such bounty from the bad is one of this album’s many positives.
Silk; Kinds Of Love; In Time Like Air; The Golden Triangle; Evermore; Passing Jupiter; Life Does Not Wait (A Vida Não Espera); Swoop; Blessings In A Year Of Exile (56.04)
Rosnes (p, kyb); Chris Potter (ss, ts, f, bcl); Christian McBride (b); Carl Allen (d); Rogério Boccato (pc). New York, 31 March – 1 April, 2021.
Smoke Sessions Records SSR-2104