The euphoria-based title of Jacam Manricks’ latest album makes perfect sense. After all, who wouldn’t be on cloud nine with a band like this?! For his fourth album, the Australian-born, New York-based saxophonist mingles with three modernist elites who help to shape and define his sound. While Manricks’ compositional prowess could easily allow him to fully script every little musical nuance conveyed on this album, he wisely allows the distinct personalities on this date to add their own thoughts while still maintaining his vision.
Guitarist Adam Rogers joins Manricks on the front line, using his focused, yet lithe lines to deliver compelling solos and shadow the saxophonist during their mutual melodic excursions. Drummer Matt Wilson brings his inimitable sense of groove-plus-the-unexpected into Manricks’ world and, though he’s often the game changer when he shows up in the studio, that distinction goes to somebody else on this date. Organist Sam Yahel proves to be the most important impetus in helping Manricks explore new frontiers in his own work. Yahel’s playing is nothing short of spectacular, as he explores the aural possibilities that exist within the organ.
The album opens on the pulsating title track, but the mood quickly changes. Manricks’ arrangement of a Finnish hymn (“Ystava Sa Lapsien”) finds the group in looser confines. Yahel’s mysterious and semi-atmospheric organ and Wilson’s free-roaming thoughts set the tone for this song before the mournful theme comes into focus. “Any Minute Now” features an easygoing melody, as Wilson steers the ship with his Afro-Cuban-to-swing shifts, and Manricks’ nod to John Coltrane—”Take The Five Train”—proves to be the high point of the album. He borrows the changes from Coltrane’s “Countdown” and puts them in a 5/4 frame, but it’s his soloing, rather than this reconstruction, that makes this track such a winner. The heartfelt “Cry” also finds Manricks in fine form, as he delivers swooping runs during his solo spot.
While the first half of the album flies high on the ideas and machinations that Manricks concocts, the album hits a slight rough patch after the halfway point. “Alibis And Lullabies,” which features a guest appearance from trumpeter David Weiss, comes across as a bit underdeveloped and listless. The follow-up track—the unaccompanied “Serene Pilgrimage”—provides a welcome look at Manricks, as a solo performer, but it sounds more like woodshedding than fully formed music. Fortunately, things come back into focus with “Loaf” and the album ends with a stellar reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Luiza.” This last number is a textural marvel, as Manricks delivers under-his-breath lines behind Rogers before coming into the light. Yahel blends in and out of the scenery, while Wilson keeps everything on the grid with his soft, but firm brushwork. This number is a true team effort in every respect…and that’s what jazz is all about.