David Binney: In The Paint; Ray’s Way & Third Occasion
by Russ Musto
While saxophonist David Binney has been increasingly recognized for his substantial musical talents, the greater part of the praise he has received has focused on his considerable capabilities as a composer, often to the point of overshadowing his skills as a rhythmically agile musician with a rich distinctive tone and extraordinary imagination. On these three very varied dates, the full breadth of Binney’s abilities come to light in a manner that is bound to call even more attention to his wide-ranging artistry.
Binney teams up with trombonist Alan Ferber (who previously appeared with the saxophonist on his critically-acclaimed Oceanos CD) for In The Paint, a co-led outing on which the two hornmen split the writing chores for a sextet of vibraphonist Peter Schlamb and the exceptional rhythm section of John Escreet, Thomas Morgan and Gerald Cleaver. While adhering to traditional song form structures and jazz rhythms, the date is far from a blowing session (due to its extremely well-conceived writing), although it does exhibit much of the straight-ahead improvisational excitement of such events. Binney’s alto is darker, grittier and more propulsive here—at times intimating the muscular authority of Gary Bartz—and he and Ferber are fine foils, complementing each other with alternating staccato and legato phrasing. The pair’s melodically engaging composing styles are suited well to each other’s personalities and three improvised duets in the AACM mode illustrate an uncannily intuitive simpatico that hopefully foretells future collaborations.
Ray Levier’s Ray’s Way features Binney as a sideman on four tracks of the journeyman drummer’s debut date as a leader, teamed with the alternating guitars of John Abercrombie and Mike Stern for a pair of pieces each. The former is on fellow participant vibraphonist Joe Locke’s propulsive soulful title track (driven by Francois Moutin’s big-toned bass) and the leader’s beautiful ballad “Song For Nury” while the latter figures prominently on his own energized compositions “You Never Know” and “Bait Tone Blues”. Binney blows some spirited sax that transports listeners to the West Village’s 55Bar where he and Stern have regularly held forth for years and Levier occasionally leads his group these days.
Third Occasion is Binney’s latest self-produced album as a leader for his own Mythology label and easily one of his finest efforts to date. The disc features, along with regular collaborators pianist Craig Taborn, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade, a brass quartet—a rare if not heretofore unprecedented feature for a jazz date. This facet of the disc will undoubtedly call even more attention to the leader’s compositional expertise, built upon his gifted melodicism, harmonic sophistication and mastery of counterpoint. The double trumpet/trombone ensemble of Ambrose Akinmusire, Brad King, Corey King and Andy Hunter that bookends the date’s 13 pieces provide a warm harmonic milieu over which the soloists improvise and execute the leader’s lyrical melodies, giving an air of classicism to the compositions; these have an expansively quiet intensity that recalls early Wayne Shorter and Andrew Hill. Taborn, Colley and Blade each contribute their very individual voices to great effect, but it is Binney’s inimitable sound that defines the overall tenor of the music, clearly identifying him as an artist with a unique vision.
Tracks and Personnel
In The Paint
Tracks: Growin’ Up; In The Paint; Everybody’s Wonderland; Interlude I; Paris; Edinburgh; Ice Cave; Interlude II; La Taqueria; Magnolia; Lautir; Interlude III; Our Inventions.
Personnel: David Binney: alto sax; Alan Ferber: trombone; Thomas Morgan: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums; Peter Schlamb: vibes.
Tracks: Ray’s Way; Manhatta; You Never Know; Song for Nury; Blues in the Closet; Bait Tone Blues; Ralph’s Piano Waltz; Echoing; Wing and a Prayer.
Personnel: David Binney: saxophone (1, 3 4, 6); Federico Turreni: soprano sax (8); John Abercrombie: guitar: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8); Mike Stern: guitar (3, 5, 6, 9); Joe Locke: vibes (1, 2, 4, 7, 8); Francois Moutin: bass (1-4, 6-8); Ned Mann: bass(5, 9); Ray Levier: drums.
Tracks: Introducao; Third Occasion; This Naked Sunday; Squares and Palaces; Solo; Here is All The Love I Have; Explaining What’s Hidden; Blood of Cities; End.
Personnel: David Binney: alto saxophone; Craig Taborn: piano; Scott Colley: acoustic bass; Brian Blade: drums; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Brad Mason: trumpet, flugelhorn; Corey King: trombone; Andy Hunter: trombone.