Adam Kolker – “Reflections”

It’s the confidence of the artists that sold me on Reflections. Adam Kolker has molded a series of compositions that, when viewed from a distance, are very much straight-ahead jazz, but when focus is drawn down to the details, the stamp of inventive musicality reveals that this isn’t just another jazz album. But it also doesn’t come off like some mad scientist experiment built on a foundation of hope; this album has substance, as if it sounds just like Kolker had intended it all along. Confidence.

That confidence also manifests in the ease of the playing. On both the peaceful tracks as well as the frenetic ones, there is a reserved feel to tunes, a low center of gravity, as if all musicians are seated and only sound like they’re all bouncing around on a stage. A low center of gravity, when used correctly, it provides balance and strength, and it’s why a short man who utilizes it can knock out cold a man much taller and larger. The best punches are short and quick, and they ain’t flashy.

But I don’t want to equate this album to violence. The first track “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” is anything but violent.

Multi-instrumentalist Adam Kolker first envisioned a trio album with close colleagues, then more friends were brought into the fold. Your album personnel: Adam Kolker (tenor sax, alto flute, bass clarinet, flute, clarinet), John Hébert (bass), Billy Mintz (drums), with Guests: John Abercrombie (guitar), Russ Lossing (piano), Judi Silvano (voice), and Kay Matsukawa (voice).

Always a sign of talent when a bandleader can bring guests in for individual album tracks and assimilate their sound into the whole as if they’d been sitting in for the entire album.

I love how the second track, Monk’s “Let’s Call This” opens, how it transitions from the previous track, and really, just the whole damn thing.

The swinging hop-skip intro, Kolker’s stroll right in, the happy groove they settle into. I love it.

The title-track is a lovely ballad, serene and unhurried, and the perfect set-up for the next track “Boscarob”, an up-tempo piece with a nifty bit of scatting as accompaniment.

The other favorite track I’d like to call attention to is “Song Along the Way”…

It’s an extended stayover of serenity, Lossing’s piano lines like contrails across a wide open blue sky, Kolker flying overhead with sax, the wind rushing through grassy fields marked by delicate cymbal and brush work. Too beautiful.

2011 was yet another strong year for jazz releases, and Kolker’s has to be considered near the top of that Best of 2011 list.  Ease and confidence make for an excellent album.

Released in 2011 on the Sunnyside Records label.  Jazz from NYC.

The entire album can be streamed on Kolker’s bandcamp page.

Available on Amazon: CD | MP3