Paul Bedal - In Reverse

Label: Bace Records, 2019

Personnel - Nick Mazzarella: saxophone; Paul Bedal: piano; Matt Ulery: bass; Charles Rumback: drums.

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For his third album as a leader, pianist Paul Bedal gathered pretty active members from the Chicago scene: alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella, bassist Matt Ulery, and drummer Charles Rumback. Although the latter two musicians had been part of his first recording project, Chatter (Bace Records, 2014), the brand new In Reverse marks the debut of this quartet, featuring eight properly structured originals peppered with improvisation.

The title cut, “In Reverse”, a catchy post-bop number coated with the modal spirituality of Coltrane, makes a great opening, detaching from the rest of the program as a consequence of its majestic depth and pulsation. The awakening sounds fuel great solos by Mozzarella and Bedal, and both take the opportunity to stretch out a bit more on the final vamp worked out by Ulery and Rumback. The strong teamwork behind the soloists occurs effortlessly, and “Jansen Ave” is another example of coordination and precise accentuation in a sort of unassumed swinging environment. In this case, Mazzarella goes bluesier, throwing in melodies that satisfy the ear, while Bedal, exploring with more atonal drive, navigates inside and outside with logic.

If the curvilinear moves of “Fractal” hide a rhythmically audacious tempo in five, “Neon” embarks on a straight, hard-driving swing. Both tunes feature Ulery, who further extends his improvisatory time on the lukewarm “Threnody”.

Spunto” is launched with a modern classical-tinged piano intro and a subtle modal eastern flavor that quickly vanishes when a post-bop vamp is erected to accommodate the soloists’ vision. The improvisational agility of Mazzarella comes into view before Bedal utters his speech with freedom, yet maintaining his left-hand work aligned with the notes supplied by the bassist. Prior to the reinstatement of the theme, the music goes through an abstract phase, in a quick visit to avant-jazz domains.

The last track, “Hornets”, breaks up things nicely, and the serene, empathic drumming of Rumback adapts well to the multiple atmospheres and rhythmic demands. Oscillating between loose and taut, the piece calls once again Bedal, Ulery, and Mazzarella to the forefront, but it's the latter who steals the show here with stunning outside deflections.

There’s no sonic boom in this recording, but everything finds harmony in the coherent actions of the quartet. Composition-wise, Bedal shows a gracefulness that may be used in the future to expand textures and moods even more. But for now, you should give In Reverse a chance.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - In Reverse ► 03 - Jansen Ave ► 04 - Spunto