Sean Conly – Re:Action (CF 124)
The bassist Sean Conly reveals his hand right away on “Re:Action,” his small but sturdy new quartet album. Opening with “Gazzelloni,” a klaxon of a theme by Eric Dolphy, he invokes not only that great multireedist but also the mid-1960s generally, claiming kinship to the era’s headlong entanglement between hard bop and the avant-garde.
Mr. Conly has stocked his group with a rough-and-tumble front line — Michaël Attias on alto and baritone saxophones, Tony Malaby on soprano and tenor — and he seems to know there’s no danger of sounding musty or insecure. In the rhythm section he bonds effectively with the veteran drummer Pheeroan akLaff, bringing about as much rigor to free-form abstraction as he does to loose but unambiguous swing.
As it happens, “Gazzelloni” is the only nonoriginal: the other 10 tracks are by Mr. Conly, with two jointly credited to Mr. Attias. The tone of these compositions sometimes reaches for sleek modernity, less than convincingly. Songs like “Suburban Angst,” with its inference of electronic beats, and “Concrete Garden,” which actually employs them, end up sounding overwrought.
But other pieces capitalize on both the openness of the format and the saxophonists’ rapport. The rhythmic strategies are various, including a stealth prowl (“There’s the Rub”), a funk strut (“Saitta”) and the sort of conversational lurch patented by the drummer Paul Motian (“Something I Said?”). In those moments and quite a few others, Mr. Conly and his team represent their chosen lineage with imaginative grace.