Brandon Wright may well be the epitome of the searching artist. With one foot planted firmly in the more traditional Rudy Van Gelder school of making a record and the other foot moving forward in an attempt to make old school become new cool again, Wright’s playing is on par with any saxophone player working today. Toss in what is essentially a first call all star trio and this 4tet is indeed a musical force to be taken seriously! Musical frames of references are dangerous in the hands of the uninitiated but an apt description of Wright’s sound may be that musical happy place somewhere between a Stan Getz and a Dexter Gordon. The rhythm section is rounded out with David Kikoski on piano, bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Donald Edwards.
“Walk of Shame” is jazz not from heart, take a hard left at the soul and go deeper. This blues infused tune is one best felt with the hips and heard with the feet. This is a nasty groove where funk and soul hook up for a musical jazz collective with the only negative being the tune ending far too soon. “Choices” is a beautifully textured ballad, wistful and slightly melancholy but highlights Wright’s expressive tone as well or better than any other tune on Journeyman. This release is unique in sound as it is in no way an attempt to capture the classic Blue Note sound or perhaps relive the glory days of Impulse. Journeyman is an exquisite release creating its own organic hybrid and straight ahead jazz with contemporary overtones for true sonic diversity seldom if ever found on other labels. Pianist Kikoski turns in a harmonic gem for his solo, subtly shifting harmonics, changing dynamics and all while working without a musical net allow this formidable 4tet to establish their own musical voice avoiding the classic “sounds like…” Some standards are done to death, having heard “Skylark” more times than I care to recall upon seeing “The Nearness Of You” my inner critic was cocking an eyebrow, shaking his head and considering a trip to Home Depot so I could find the length of rope and rickety stool isle. Wright’s take on “The Nearness Of You” is easily the finest “cover” I have run across!
Brandon Wright is the future voice of the modern saxophone. There are very few players that can play with soul, taste and an impeccable elegance that is an innate gift – it simply can not be taught.