Kyle Nasser - Persistent Fancy

Label: Ropeadope, 2018

Personnel – Kyle Nasser: tenor and soprano saxophones; Roman Filiu: alto saxophone; Jeff Miles: guitar; Dov Manski: keyboards; Nick Jost: bass; Allan Mednard: drums.

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Saxophonist Kyle Nasser, a native of Massachusetts, forges his sophomore album, Persistent Fancy, with a strong team spirit and a signature of his own. The CD, inspired by literary and philosophical works as well as personal experiences, comprises 14 compositions molded with classical, rock, and jazz influences. Nasser gathers a competent sextet, forming a dynamic frontline with Henry Threadgill’s indispensable altoist Roman Filiu. They are backed by an efficient rhythm section with Jeff Miles on guitar, Dov Manski on keyboards, Nick Jost on bass, and Allan Mednard on drums. The guitarist is the only ‘survivor’ from Nasser’s 2015 album Restive Soul.

The album’s opener, “Split Gut”, is a tempting invitation formalized by piano moves effortlessly synchronized with bass and drums. Amidst rock discharges and oblique crescendos, there is still space for a conversational interaction between the reed players. Initially cordial, the dialogue expands after a while, until getting the phrases juxtaposed. Miles’ wah-wah guitar is attractively noir and his attacks point in the direction of the next indie rock-driven song, “Arrival”, originally written for a trio gig in Chile.

The rock genre is revisited again with “Sticky Hipster”, a fusion exercise that homages the musical tendencies of Nasser’s Brooklyn neighborhood. It’s filled with guitar sounds in the style of Alan Holdsworth, rapid saxophone runs, and hearty drum slaps. Also, the second part of “Eros Suite”, featuring ostinatos and cyclical harmonic progressions with the drummer at full force, creates an adherent rock muscle that is dropped in its romantic third and last part.

There is another suite in the program that piqued my curiosity through its distinct tone colors in an agile amalgamation of jazz and classical music. The three-part “Baroque Suite” was inspired by Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues and shows Nasser’s compositional sophistication. The first part (prelude) implements a sort of rock-ish Middle Eastern cadence in seven before a passage that consolidates classical piano and synth effects. The second part (a fugue) serves as a showcase for the saxophonist's delineations, whereas the conclusive part three is a 2-minute swinging fantasy where they fully enjoy improvisatory freedom.

The classical influence sticks out once again on the sole non-original on the album. “Arioso” is an excerpt from prolific German violinist Paul Hindemith’s “Ludus Tonalis”, while, on the contrary, post-bop orientations are in the base of “The Ascent of Henry Monmouth” and “3-Way”.

Contrasting with the rest of the tunes, we have the title track, immersed in synth replications while rock and jazz elements fuse with an electronic-like vibe; and the happy, suggestive pop song “Coffee and Cannabis”, which closes out the album.

Pivoting into a variety of sonic territories, Nasser presented well-developed ideas that openly welcome cross-genre pollination.

 Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Split Gut ► 05-07 - Baroque Suite ► 07-09 - Eros Suite