Nov 29 2015
What really drives home the particular beauty of Time River are the perpetual intersection points of meticulous construction and sweeping majesty, as if computer code originally tasked for international banking operations transformed its instructions to create Impressionistic oil paintings for the masses. The pulsing bursts of vibraphones on “The Urban Legend,” the finely detailed intertwining patterns from saxophones on “Cityscape,” the mixed messages of soloists superimposed on the prevailing straight-forward structure of “Dizzy Dizzy Wildflower”… these are the essential threads that vault the new big band recording from Miho Hazama to another level, and they are strong as steel support beams and they are the concurrent storylines converging mysteriously into the main plot. And there’s something appealingly happenstance about the way Hazama gets big band and chamber jazz ingredients to fall into place, a thing where the blind faith of leaping from the clifftops is revealed to be just the first step in the thoughtfully planned splash of music in the pool below.
A handful of the tracks lean heavily toward the big band sound, and judged on their own, they certainly stand up just fine, but they don’t stand out quite as special as those where the chamber music element is sharing the spotlight. There’s just no getting around that there’s a far greater vibrancy to a track like “Alternate Universe, Was That Real,” with the way Hazama matches the brooding intensity of a big band with a chamber music’s contemplative reverie… a mix of raw power and deep thought that is only hinted at, where the insinuation of power resonates so much more strongly than simply letting it strike. And when it does strike, a track like “Fugue” shows how some well-placed restraint provides both definition and shape to those passages where the ensemble just lets loose. It’s the difference between calm intensity and blithe melodrama, and it’s all the difference in the world. Title-track “Time River” astutely observes this dividing line, too.
This is a nice instance of something different getting reflected off the surface of something familiar, and where it’s not always easy to determine whether it’s the facets or the form that are the guiding hand that ushers one moment to the next.
Your album personnel: Miho Hazama (conductor, piano), Cam Collins (alto sax, clarinet), Ryoji Ihara (tenor & soprano saxes, flute), Sam Anning (bass), Jake Goldbas (drums), James Shipp (vibraphone) and guests: Gil Goldstein (accordion), Joshua Redman (soprano and tenor saxes), Andrew Gutauskas (baritone sax, bass clarinet), Matthew Jodrell (trumpet, flugelhorn), Adam Unsworth (French horn), Joyce Hammann (violin), Sara Caswell (violin), Lois Martin (viola), Meaghan Burke (cello), Sam Harris (piano) and Alex Brown (piano).
Released on Sunnyside Records.
Jazz from NYC.