Jeremy Cunningham: drums; Jeff Parker: guitar; Josh Johnson: alto saxophone; Dustin Laurenzi: tenor sax; Andrew Toombs: wurlitzer, piano; Matt Ulery: bass.
Chicago-based drummer/composer Jeremy Cunningham leads a debutant sextet composed of Josh Johnson on alto saxophone, Dustin Laurenzi on tenor sax, Jeff Parker on guitar, Andrew Toombs on Wurlitzer and piano, and Matt Ulery on bass, whose sonic maneuvers deserve to be urgently assimilated.
The bandleader, who considers Elvin Jones and the music of Coltrane his great inspirations, also reveals compositional adroitness.
Cunningham displays pliant drumming skills, which adapt to different styles as we had the chance to confirm in a couple of albums by trumpeter Marquis Hill.
His debut album, Re: Dawn (from afar), was released on Ears&Eyes Records and unwraps a wonderful tune to open it. “Bémbé” flows with a straightforward African-samba-rock pulse that only eases on brief calmer passages. The theme’s melody is designed alternately by sax and guitar, suggesting a fair trade of ideas. As for the solos, Parker shows to be equally comfortable playing within the traditional and unconventional, Johnson thinks quickly and executes with agility, while Toombs seamlessly adapts himself to the funk direction assumed for the last minutes.
“Pulses” places sax-bass unisons on top of jittery African cadences. Cunningham drives with a steady hand as the tune gets a boost through majestic improvisations – rock-solid in the case of the guitarist, winding when it comes to the saxophonist.
A slow-yet-consistent 7/4 groove is laid down by the rhythm section in “Leaves Rain”, which despite the epic propensity, ends up in a shimmering vamp painted with Brazilian watercolors.
Both the title track and the last tune, “Visions”, linger in the air for quite awhile. The former is a ballad where the great communication between Cunningham and Ulery becomes evident, while the latter is a downtempo 4/4 piece, strongly accentuated by snare drum on the third beat.
The quartet expresses its love for pure, melodious jazz in the colorful “Constituent” whose breezy hooks are much appreciated.
Whether playing fistfuls of chromatic clusters on top of challenging rhythms or simple melodies on top of refreshing textures, this band never ceases to captivate.
Re: Dawn (from afar) is the type of debut album that many newcomers would like to do. Despite the few recordings, Cunningham reveals maturity and sensitivity galore.
Label: ears&eyes Records
01 – Bémbé ► 02 – Pulses ► 07 – Visions