Bassist Jason Jenkins’s newest album is a treasure trove for jazz heavies and an accessible intro to modern swinging jazz for the layman.
Jazz fans will find many treasures in Synchronicity, and the layman should find it an accessible intro to modern swinging jazz. It’s the fourth release as a leader from Richmond bassist Jason Jenkins and showcases five tunes, four of which are originals penned by the leader. Most clock in between nine and 11 minutes, but there are so many great things happening on each track that it ends up being a reward, not a qualm.
Local drummer Billy Williams joins Jenkins along with pianist Toru Dodo, a native of Japan, Berklee graduate, and current New Yorker whom Jenkins has occasionally played with at Cleopatra’s Needle in NYC. Appearing on various tracks are also Richmonders James “Saxsmo” Gates on alto saxophone and Kevin Simpson on soprano saxophone, as well as Brooklynite trumpeter Duane Smith, a past fellow student of Jenkins’s at Hampton University.
Jenkins’s penchant for the staccato follows the bounciness in his bass walking. His sharp attack is powerful and assertive, but he’s just as able to produce smooth lyrical lines like he does in the album’s only non-original, Benny Davis’s “There Goes My Heart.” In the theme of the tune, Gates is soulful in bemoaning his lost love.
Todo is a fine accompanist to Jenkins, adding quirkiness and interjecting when appropriate, and is a thoughtful and exciting soloist, often jostling between singable melodic lines and angular leap-filled ideas. In “Decatur Chant,” Williams energizes him by creating a basin of rapid and undulating cymbals and drums.
Williams’s superior riling abilities also contribute to Smith’s solo on the title track, helping him progress with energy and activity. The drummer solos twelve bars at a time, creating micro-themes, miniature stories, each time.
Since time in the studio wore thin and the Dodo originals that were supposed to be included were not recorded, we’re left with a cliffhanger until next time. Till then, an imaginative novel lies before us.
Track list: The Decatur Chant, There Goes My Heart, Cause Celebre, Almost Invisible, Synchronicity.
Personnel: Jason Jenkins: bass; Toro Dodo: piano; Billy Williams: drums; James Gates: alto saxophone; Kevin Simpson: soprano saxophone; Duane Smith: trumpet.