Label: New Lab Records, 2019
Personnel - Jonathon Crompton: alto saxophone; Ingrid Laubrock: tenor saxophone; Patrick Breiner: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Patrick Booth: tenor saxophone; Adam Hopkins: bass; Kate Gentile: drums
The sound of the saxophone always hypnotized me. All the possible attacks and timbres can make it powerful and aggressive on one hand and sleek and sweet on the other. Australian-born saxophonist Jonathon Crompton knows all this and explores the particularities of the instrument, coordinating polyphonies and contrapuntal movements within defined frameworks for an attractive chamber storytelling.
The eight tunes that comprise Intuit, the first release on his own label New Lab Records, were subjected to glowing arrangements, providing an absorbing set of music that, according to its author, skims over style connotations. However, his approach naturally reflects some influences: from the colorful post-bop of Joe Lovano to the clever mainstream of Paul Desmond, as well as classical practices, with Philip Glass and John Harle coming to my head in the first instance, all contribute to an up-to-date sound and texture.
All the material was written before Crompton’s arrival in the US in 2013, except for the title track, a collective free improvisation where the bandleader, Ingrid Laubrock, and Patrick Breiner overlap percussive popping sounds, methodic throaty ostinatos, short rapid runs, and cacophonous squeaks and moans, with unfettered abandon. Initially functioning without accompaniment, the three saxes welcome bass and drums to develop an interesting synergy, even with the impetus declining toward the ending.
Radiating a strong classical glow, “Courage” is an ad-libbed troubadour-like song, nicely arranged to provide a smooth and velvety touch at the surface. This piece is not isolated as a reeds-only composition. In the same category, we have “Primacy of Gesture”, “Catherine”, in which the sax voices echo grandiosely in the vastness, and “December”. They all disclose sequences of notes that loom larger as they unfold through well-studied movements and curious passages defined by unisons and polyphonic settlement. After all, this is all about the rhythmic precision and timbral contrast of the horn section.
The introductory soft focus of “Apathy” has to do with the momentary silences and pauses that fragmentizes its course. However, and without completely abandoning the thoughtful, sluggish posture that characterizes it, the group puts on view a wonderful orchestration with the bass clarinet in evidence. There’s an uncompromising search for energy as well as an inclination for the adventure, which fully arrives on both “Dreaming” and “Suite in A”. Colored by a distinct atmosphere, the former veers from hushed classical empathy to confident, bright tempo swing to stimulate extemporaneous rides, while the latter blends the traditional and modern jazz canons as a successful encounter between post-bop and avant-jazz. Amidst the cohesive palette of textures there’s room for individual creativity. Thus, after bringing the intensity down, Adam Hopkins’ pounding bass pedal in complicity with Kate Gentile’s subdued yet luxurious drumming encourages the reedists to blow fanciful, exotic phrases.
Crompton is a prime example of a clever arranger who also knows how to engage the attentive listener by staying away from cliché-ridden schemes.
01 - Intuit ► 03 - Apathy ► 07 - Suite in A