Label/Year: Inner Circle Music, 2017
Lineup – Troy Roberts: tenor and soprano saxophones; Silvano Monasterios: piano; Robert Hurst: upright bass; Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts: drums.
Troy Roberts is a multi-awarded Australian saxophonist/composer whose sleek style and shimmering sound led him to perform with respected names such as Aretha Franklin, Christian McBride, Dave Douglas, and Orrin Evans.
Meshing efficiently the bop tradition with new currents, Roberts has released seven albums as a leader and the latest of them, Tales & Tones, which includes both originals and jazz standards, is probably his strongest.
For this session, he convenes a quartet, whose members include Venezuelan Silvano Monasterios on piano and an accomplished bass-drums rhythm team with Robert Hurst on bass and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts on drums.
They open with “Decoration”, Robert's adventurous tune of variable intensities and rhythmic nuances, which recalls Don Byron’s progressive approach. After the theme’s statement, Hurst and Watts cling to an unaccompanied swinging groove that paves the ground for Roberts’ rollicking yet intelligible stroll on soprano. Here, everyone is allowed to express their individuality and Monasterios, Hurst, and finally Watts also deliver brazen improvisations.
“Trams” is propelled by a well-defined bass groove together with the wild, dry drumming of Watts, who only relaxes in his gestures on the meddling swinging passages. Elements of hard and post bop are seamlessly interlaced on top of rich harmonies and bouncing rhythms.
Contrasting with the crestfallen ballad “Rivera Mountain”, which feels a bit overlong, the animated “Bernie’s Tune” arrives deeply rooted in tradition and brings up the rich phraseology used by the hard-boppers from the 50s. While Roberts combines a warm timbre with the vivacity of Jackie McLean’s lines, Monasterios finds space to quote “Ain’t Misbehavin” amidst his rambunctious sweeps. Everything flows through a forwarding attitude that encompasses swing and brief Latin incursions, ending up with eight-bar trades between the drummer and the other members.
The band puts a lot of rhythmic pepper in the rendition of Strayhorn’s classic “Take the A Train”, which sounds victoriously fresh with the multiple variations.
Carrying funny titles and cool transitory passages, “Pickapoppy” and “Mr. Pinononnk”, two smooth exercises composed by the bandleader, are strong parts of the whole. The former thrives through the impulsive stimulus counteracted by Roberts and Monasterios, while the latter allows light in, blossoming by the virtue of a winsome combination of sweet melodies delivered in unison, counterpointed sections, and the quietly powerful snare drumming of Watts, even only lasting for a few minutes.
Positive and emphatic, Roberts crafted a solid record that vibrates with the quartet’s chemistry and creative latitude. By listening to it, you will certainly agree with me about his musical appeal and technical sophistication.
01 – Decoration ► 07 – Pickapoppy ► 08 – Mr. Pinononnk