Sep 5 2018
Some albums just sing. It’s not so easy to identify why they resonate as strongly as they do, but just because we can’t see it, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. The newest from Matt Penman is a case in point. Good Question is a straight-forward modern jazz recording. It doesn’t break any new ground. There’s nothing about the compositions that stretches out to new territory. It sticks to a sound most often categorized as modern post-bop and doesn’t venture out from there. But something about how the bassist brings together the right personnel at just the right moments in each piece sets them off like fireworks in the center of everything.
The way Aaron Parks bounces the melody back and forth between piano and vibraphone makes opening track “Mr. Right” special all in itself, but when Penman and Mark Turner enfold it with the shadow and light of bass and tenor sax, it’s like opening a window to a whole new world. There’s those uplifting moments on “Fifths and Bayou” when the combined efforts of Parks, Penman, drummer Obed Calvaire and guest percussionist Rogerio Boccato coax the rhythmic intensity ever upward while guest soprano saxophonist Will Vinson feeds off its energy and sends his solo even higher.
And then there’s the combined effect of ensemble effort and compositional intent. The shifting tides of melancholy and joy bleed into one another, and provide a nuanced tone that goes far deeper than here is a happy song and now here is a sad one. The sense of everything being connected imbues the album with a gravitas that makes simple statements ring as something far grander and, consequently, keeps the ear locked in at attention. The mix of guests on guitar, soprano sax and percussion are no less important an ingredient to album’s depth, as is the way Parks switches between piano, Rhodes, vibraphone and organ. They each bring new and exciting textures to their respective contributions without it being a sea change to the album’s personality.
Plenty to like on this one.
Your album personnel: Matt Penman (bass), Mark Turner (tenor sax), Aaron Parks (piano, Fender Rhodes, vibraphone, organ), Obed Calvaire (drums) and guests: Nir Felder (guitar), Will Vinson (soprano sax) and Rogerio Boccato (percussion).
Released on Sunnyside Records.
Listen to more of the album at the label’s Bandcamp page.
Music from NYC.