Label/Year: Whirlwind Records, 2017
Lineup - Tim Armacost: tenor saxophone; Robert Hurst: bass; Jeff Tain Watts: drums; David Kikoski: piano.
American saxophonist/composer Tim Armacost has established an enviable path within the populated jazz panorama both as a leader, sideman, and co-leader of groups such as the New York Standards Quartet and Brooklyn Big Band.
His newest outing, Time Being, is the first on the Whirlwind Records and features Robert Hurst on bass, Jeff Tain Watts on drums, and pianist David Kikoski who joins the trio only on a few selected tracks.
The rich sound and vibrant timbre of the saxophonist is immediately patented on the opening tune, “Alawain”, a virile bost-bop excursion set up in trio where the levels of energy skyrocket. Hurst begins soloing upfront before falling into a hooky groove that sounds even catchier when in the company of Watts’ creative powerhouse drumming. On top of that, the bandleader weaves expressive phrases embellished here and there with Eastern colors.
The title track displays the dark-toned tenor working in synch with the bass. One can feel an apparent relaxation that finds resistance in the African arrhythmias of the fidgeting drummer, while the experienced bassist enjoys freedom, whether rambling with insouciance, whether swinging the old-fashioned way.
There are three distinct pieces baptized with the title Sculpture, each of them probing a sense of strange liberation within their structured experimentation. “Sculpture #1: Phase Shift” feels like a bop tune working in the guise of a modern improvisatory routine; “Sculpture #2: Tempus Funkit" swings more than funks, opting to ululate with tempo fluctuations; “Sculpture #3: All the Things You Could Become in the Large Hadron Collider”, the last track on the album, has a vibrancy that stems from a (de)conversation between Armacost and Kikoski, which occurs with the harmonic progression of “All The Things You Are” as a point of departure. In tandem, they extract dizzying effects from their winged yet remarkably coordinated interplay.
Moods and paces are constantly altered from one tune to another. Thus, if “The Next 20” delves into balladic zone, gaining contours of a jazz standard, especially by the action of Kikoski’s harmonic smoothness, “53rd St. Theme”, based on Monk’s “52nd Street”, calls for classic bop while tingling through slowdowns and accelerations in tempo.
The two non-originals are utterly exciting. Thelonious Monk’s “Teo” provides enough punch and accent, not only thriving with the unpredictable ideas that keep bursting from the bandleader’s instrument, but also with the eight-bar improvised exchanges between Watts and his peers. No less vigorous, Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” is subjected to a delightful arrangement, starting with Hurst and Armacost echoing the phrases of each other while Watts pushes forward with consistency by employing his typically unhinged rhythms.
Tim Armacost knows how to pull emotions out of his playing. This record authenticates him as an adventurous composer, and the last pair of songs described above show how imaginative he can be when tackling a classic tune.
01 - Alawain ► 08 - Lonely Woman ► 10 - Sculpture #3