May 18 2016
It’s not just that the melodies of Fly Magic reach out like a firm handshake, gripping the attention tight, but it’s the delightful way saxophonist Timo Vollbrecht creates diversions for those gaps in time between melodic appearances that rounds out his debut’s magnetic personality. There’s the way “Paco” transitions from flighty statements of saxophone melody to the salt-of-the-earth growls from guitarist Keisuke Matsuno. And there’s the way “Pretty Now” trades the sweet melodic passages of saxophone for captivating guitar curls and hypnotic cycles from vibraphonist Chris Dingman. “A New York Love Affair” partitions its changes off, moving from swooning melodic phrases and tiny hints of surf rock before sprinting to the finish line with a captivating post-rock surge of melodicism. “Globus” sees a sharpness brought to the table for the melody, effected by Matsuno’s guitar and the punctuated jabs from drummer Jason Burger. It’s an edge that is further accentuated by a wavering harmonic fog that sees vibes and guitar framed by bassist Sam Anning. It’s a formula that also works well on “Slothchops,” which switches between crunchy jazz-rock melodic passages and a guitar loop immersion… more than one occasion that the quintet hints at a detour into the kind of strange, eerie beauty most associated with Bill Frisell’s post-NYC works.
And even though it’s the melodic introductions and the harmonic diversions that reflect this album’s winning characteristic, even with all the changes entailed with the quintet’s approach and diverse expressionism, the group keeps a steady-as-she-goes tempo that’s suited for both states of being, each accentuating something new about the rhythm section’s contribution, and each making contributions to shepherding the tunes along.
The tail end of the recording begins to meander a bit and lose its focus. The melodies are still beautiful as hell and the harmonic accompaniment has all kinds of allure, but the development of each song isn’t quite as crisp or incisive as the album’s first half, and the interactions between melodic and harmonic states aren’t quite as distinct from one another. Admittedly, this is a pretty mild criticism, since the album’s second half gets dinged only because the first half is so enchanting. But all in all, this is a wonderful recording, first note to last.
Your album personnel: Timo Vollbrecht (tenor sax, clarinet), Keisuke Matsuno (guitar), Sam Anning (bass), Jason Burger (drums) and Chris Dingman (vibraphone).
Released on Berthold Records.
Listen to more album tracks at the artist’s Soundcloud page.