Bryan McAllister - Very Stable Genius

Label: Orenda Records, 2019

Personnel - Bryan McAllister: keyboards; Levi Saelua: alto sax, bass clarinet; Brandon Sherman: trumpet; Zack Teran: electric bass; Miguel Jimenez-Cruz: drums + guest Peter Epstein: alto sax.


Keyboardist Bryan McAllister, a native of Reno, Nevada, reunites his local quintet for an electric jazz session marked by political observation (all titles target president Trump), in its satirical and reflective modes, and a rocking sense of groove. The album, Very Stable Genius, is an eight-song expedition into all sorts of fusion, and the opening tune, “My Fingers Are Long and Beautiful” is one of its highlights. Popping bass lines sustain the animated unison melodies that precede the improvisations. While the expressive altoist Levi Saelua denotes articulation within a conversational style, trumpeter Brandon Sherman exhibits strong rhythmic ideas throughout the swift, offbeat phrasing. The bandleader, besides attentive not to make his comping intrusive, improvises for a short period of time. By the end, both unisons and counterpoint lead to a rock vamp where drummer Miguel Jimenez-Cruz sweeps the drumset with energy.

Bringing the same soloists to the forefront, “My IQ is the One of the Highest” is another stream-of-consciousness allurement with a tuneful horn-driven intro, quick-witted bass slides, and a seductive riff defining its head. The efficiency of the drummer is noticeable here again and the tune ends with a mellow tone after his effervescent discourse.

If “Mueller” is a humorous fusion of rock and Latin jazz that grooves with a forward-looking attitude, “Plan a Parade” sucks you into its odd-metered, rock-oriented vortex. Guest saxophonist Peter Epstein shines while expressing his valuable opinions on alto sax. The group explores the fertile contemporary jazz landscape with a bunch of other influences and “Fake News” is peremptory in showing it. Repetitive lines echoed by sax and muted trumpet join the electronic vibe (with some fine glitch) generated by the rhythm section. The vibrant pulse acquires different shapes, evincing Latin connotations after the final statement, and we realize that irony is here to stay.

Softer in nature, “Executive Time” finds wider space to navigate, even when the relentless pendular keyboard punctuates Zack Teran’s bass extemporization. In turn, the beautiful ambient jazz of “State of the Uniom” showcases McAllister’s keyboards as its vital melodic force. It feels good to luxuriate in its irresistible, easy-listening sonorities.

With a firm grasp across genres, McAllister and his qualified bandmates focused on cooking an admirable set that brings the keyboardist’s eclectic compositions to life. Subsequent listenings will allow you to get more and more familiar with their sound aesthetics and make unexpected discoveries.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - My Fingers Are Long and Beautiful ► 06 - State of the Uniom ► 08 - Plan a Parade