Friday, May 17, 2019

Teodross Avery - After the Rain: A Night for Coltrane (Tompkins Square, 2019)

Saxophonist Teodross Avery was one of the “young lions” who made a big splash in the early 1990's recording a couple of albums for Impulse before lending his horn to a number of hip hop stars then turning to academia. His return to acoustic jazz is a very impressive one, playing music by or associated with John Coltrane in the company of Adam Shulman on piano, Jeff Chambers on bass and Darrell Green on drums. The opening track, “Blues Minor” has a classic diamond hard post bop sound, with a crisp melody launching into improvisation. Backed by bounding bass, Avery's dark raw tenor saxophone tone punches hard into atmospheric squeals of fiendish intensity, framed by heavy swinging drums and piano comping. Midway there is a shift to the rhythm section featuring tight piano, bass and gentler drums, followed by an exciting section of saxophone trading phrases with drums, then the band returning to the melody to conclude the performance. “Bakai” has a raw unaccompanied saxophone opening, before the group collapses into the rhythmic theme with excellent percussion meeting passionate saxophone playing to construct a firm foundation for this lengthy exploration. The group led by Avery builds a strong and majestic improvised statement, scaling higher and higher, then breaking out for an intricate trio section, and a thunderous drum solo. Avery returns for the remainder of the tune restating the melody, and guiding them in for a safe landing. There is another hard charging opening on “Afro Blue” with Avery playing soprano saxophone over some wonderfully heaving rhythm playing, featuring superb interplay between the piano, bass and drums. The swirling, exotically tinged saxophone returns leading to an intense collective improvisation with Avery like a whirling dervish playing in a trance of speed and excitement. The haunting ballad “After the Rain” is played with restraint, Avery returning to tenor saxophone with a deep enveloping tone, and patient, spacious rhythm framing of bowed bass gentle piano notes and cymbals. “Africa” is an epic with a foundation of strong bass and drums, and deep tenor saxophone and percussive piano, creating a powerhouse sound that drives forward leaning into stoic bowed bass and deeply honed tenor saxophone creating a wonderful sound, and the band is just playing lights out. Strong piano playing leads the rhythm section into their feature, a memorable one with deeply felt bass and deft cymbal play keeping the pace quick, and including a stellar bowed bass feature. “Pursuance” is taken at light speed with a short saxophone intro torrential outpouring of piano, bass and drums. Avery weaves in and out of the performance, playing very fast and articulating very well at high speed, then driving the band full bore including an excellent drum solo in a thrilling performance that encapsulates all of their energies on this excellent recording. After the Rain: A Night for Coltrane - amazon.com

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