Jason Palmer - Rhyme and Reason

Label: Giant Step Arts, 2019

Personnel - Jason Palmer: trumpet; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; Matt Brewer: acoustic bass; Kendrick Scott: drums.

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On the double-disc Rhyme and Reason, trumpeter Jason Palmer is featured in a quartet with Mark Turner on tenor sax, Matt Brewer on acoustic bass, and Kendrick Scott on drums. The album consists of eight long original tunes (three of them exceed the 15 minutes whilst only one runs under 10 minutes) recorded live in 2018 at The Jazz Gallery, New York, and was released with the support of the artist-focused non-profit Giant Step Arts led by recording engineer and photographer Jimmy Katz.

Palmer, alone, sets in motion three of the four compositions that constitute the disc 1. Among them is “Herbs in a Glass”, a piece evenly inspired by the 4554 beat of August Greene’s “Aya” and the chord structure of Herbie Hancock’s “Tell Me a Bedtime Story”, has snaky unisons floating above the vivid chord-less texture brought in by the bass and drums. Actually, the rhythm section swings and rocks at once, inciting the bandleader to infuse disconcerting melodies on top of it. Turner follows him with a strong discourse, and the final section displays an outgoing Scott exploring possibilities behind the drum set.

Suggesting an odd way of walking - sort of lolloping and marching at the same time - the title cut is a mixed-metered tune whose solos traverse many peaks, valleys, and plains. It features Palmer, Turner and Brewer alternating bars by the end. Despite bracing, it doesn't match the energy, groove, and emotional vibrancy of “Sadhana”, a potent churner. Palmer wrote it in the mid-2000s with spiritual practices in mind, and that is reflected in the soulful atmospherics. Turner throws in a lot of ideas, with one particular riff conjuring up Art Blakey’s version of “Moanin”, while the trumpeter explores brisk, clear-pitched lines.

Composed in honor of the bassist Alan Hampton, “The Hampton Inn (For Alan)” inaugurates the disc 2 by making us guess the groove that is coming as a result of Scott’s solo drumming. Lines usually ending with surprising bright notes bring the humor.

On the heels of “Waltz for Diana”, a Rosenwinkel-inspired tune where Palmer evokes the melody of “My Favorite Things” at the same time that nods to Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debby”, we have “Kalispel Bay”, which thrives at a 5/4 tempo with plenty of freedom for the horns. This tune was originally composed in the ukulele.

Often populating his playing with energy and spontaneity, Palmer also makes possible for his bandmates to share their musical expertise. The only inconvenience is the duration of the solos, overextended to the point of getting me tired here and there, a fact aggravated by the absence of harmonic color throughout. Having that said, this is respectable material with a lot to be absorbed.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 (disc 1) - Herbs in a Glass ► 04 (disc 1) - Sadhana ► 04 (disc 2) - Kalispel Bay