by Dean Christesen Simplicity is a modest title for an album that has exciting complexities around every corner. Wild melodies, blazing solos, and unique interplay often mask any simplicity that is to be found in the music. But still, there is a certain welcomed basic-ness at the heart of saxophonist Jason Arce’s debut release. Penned […]
Simplicity is a modest title for an album that has exciting complexities around every corner. Wild melodies, blazing solos, and unique interplay often mask any simplicity that is to be found in the music. But still, there is a certain welcomed basic-ness at the heart of saxophonist Jason Arce’s debut release. Penned solely by Arce, the compositions are borne of a talented band full of life and energy.
The album firmly opens with the title track, featuring a sharp-edged wandering melody, but there is some titular truth to the very next piece, “Break the Wall.” After a balladic intro with piano and sax, the band storms in. Trumpeter Bob Miller takes off running while propellants drummer Kelli Strawbridge and bassist Matt Hall surge with him. In the album’s second instance of chivalrous behavior from the leader, Arce takes second solo to a band mate, but still manages to throw good manners out the window with his aggressive and adventurous playing. His varied use of space and fervent heat sets his band’s course with democratic leadership and an open ear. The solo, like many on the disc, arcs beautifully and comes together at just the right moment.
Hall’s strength on the backline is impeccable, and his ability to react to any situation and see and hear is quite omniscient. Fellow accompanists, guitarist Alan Parker and piano and wurlitzer player Devonne Harris, are equally extrospective, looking outwards before looking in, especially on “Time To Leave.”
Strawbridge, insightful with often-explosive bursts of drums and cymbals, also looks outward to inspire each soloist. Even the calmer pieces are laced with a sense of vigor in his drumming, as on “57th Sunset.” Harris’s first trip to the drum throne on “New Relationship” brings ultra funky drumming with a fist full of a hip-hop vibe, and with the absence of keys, the music breathes a little better than the pieces before it.
The musicians often nod to Miles Davis’s legendary second quintet (Strawbridge displays Tony Williams-like fire in his drum solo on “Happy Blues,” and Harris immediately quotes the melody of “E.S.P.” on the first track), although that doesn’t stop Arce from exploring his own inspirations, life experiences, and the beginning of his journey as a leader.
Track listing: Simplicity; Break the Wall; End of the Night; Time to Leave; 57th Sunset; New Relationship; Forward Progress; Patiently Waiting; Happy Blues; Break the Wall (alt. take).
Personnel: Jason Arce: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, piano (2,7); Devonne Harris: piano, wurlitzer, drums (6,7); Alan Parker: guitar; Matt Hall: bass; Bob Miller: trumpet (1-3,10); Sam Savage: trombone (8,9); Kelli Strawbridge: drums (1-5,8-10).
Friday, August 1, 2008, 9 pm
Jason Arce Quintet w/ NO BS! Brass
$6, all ages
Purchase Simplicity, $6 at the show ($10 after that)
[where: 1621 W. Broad St., Richmond, VA 23220]