By Tim Niland
This is an interesting album of jazz music that is confident enough to be free and also swing, led by Jacob Sacks on piano with Ellery Eskelin on tenor saxophone, Tony Malaby on tenor and soprano saxophones, Michael Formanek on bass and Dan Weiss on drums. “Saloon” opens the album with an interesting dual saxophone trade off, and the two instruments have a clear delineation in tone, before the rhythm section muscles in and creates full band improvisation that begins to swing with the full bodied rhythm section leading the way with rippling piano, before raw saxophone and biting drums return to keep the music exciting and passionate. Thick propulsive bass is at the core of “Carnegie the Sketcher” where soprano saxophone and tenor saxophone shadow each other, creating an interesting contrast where the music is fast and nervous, filled with an anxious energy. The pace waxes and wanes with fresh dynamic energy, and the two saxophones complement and contrast within the framework of the performance. “The Opener” has an interesting cascading theme that breaks out, allowing for more space between the instruments, vigorous tenor saxophone, and quick nimble soprano paint contrails across the musical sky, with an athletic rhythm section churning beneath them. Fine solo sections for soprano saxophone, piano and drums make this one of the highlights of the album. There is a patient opening as the instruments gradually bloom on “Five Little Melodies” like a free ballad, the percussion is subtle but pointed as the saxophones gradually begin to fill in the available space with more urgent cries, developing into a pulsating collective improvisation as the track draws to a close. “Carnegie Chutes Fork” is a faster and more ominous free improvisation, a short film trying to squeeze it all in, saxophones kneading the air, around fluttering piano, bass and fluctuating percussion, as if it had no beginning or no end. A worrying solo bass opening by bowing long tones and sounds into the silence ushers “Chopped In,” followed by piano which tip toes in, ringing loud notes that sustain, then developing a melody almost like an incantation as the band comes together to play. The music weaves an intricate tapestry at a slow pace and relatively low volume, soft, breaths of saxophone and light chords of piano. “Carnegie Stock Thew” a bit jarring after the previous track with jagged bits of saxophone and percussion and bowed bass amidst flutters of piano, creating a raw and unfettered sound. The full band comes steaming in for the “Ill Blues” melody, a sauntering swing with a tight tenor saxophone solo over heavy piano comping and swaying drums. The raw tenor sounds great, powering through, then stepping aside for a mighty piano interlude showing an individual approach to the instrument, succeeded by the second tenor saxophone mixing the airy with the gruff, leading to a quiet and classy conclusion.