CD review

Will Vinson – “four forty one”

Will Vinson –  four forty one

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4752. CD review by Mike Collins)

Alto saxophonist Will Vinson’s latest release brings us the fruit of a remarkable series of collaborations, recorded over a period of three years, with no  fewer than five different pianists: Sullivan Fortner, Tigran Hamaysan, Gerald Clayton, Fred Hersch and Gonzalo Rubalcaba.

This is a compelling musical adventure. Vinson duets with each partner, before being joined by their regular bass and drums team. The five pianists are remarkably varied. Hamaysan and Rubalcaba have garlanded careers, notable in part for infusing jazz with their respectively Armenian and Cuban heritages; Hersch is arguably one of the most influential pianists of his generation. Fortner and Clayton, whilst rooted in the in American tradition have pursued their own different paths. What’s striking about this collection then, is the consistency of sound and atmosphere.

The duos and foursomes play Vinson compositions and choices and the connecting thread is Vinson himself. The standard Love Letters finds Fortner with Matt Brewer and drummer Obed Calvaire skittering and swirling, as Vinson threads the tune through fractured phrases. Vinson explores Keith Jarrett’s Oasis with Hamaysan, Matt Penman on bass and Billy Hart, an atmospheric and evocative reading. A duet with Fred Hersch on Monk’s Work is followed by the bitter-sweet lyricism of KW, a Bryn Roberts-penned tribute to Kenny Wheeler. Vinson’s ballad The Way To You, showcases both Vinson’s distilled, freighted-with-emotion sound and Rubalcaba’s rich palette of harmony, before Larry Grenadier and Eric Harland join the fray for That Happened, producing fireworks as darting, angular lines and stuttering rhythms build tension and momentum and Rubalcaba lets fly. Gerald Clayton with Matt Brewer and Clarence  Penn conjure a darker mood on Vinson’s Cherry Time, a brooding, slowly unfolding theme giving space for flurries of dissonance and twisting lines from the piano.

Vinson talks about this project as exploring different aspects of his own musical personality. His a distinctive voice however, with a clarity of expression, and confident inventiveness that make these five different encounters crackle with energy and ideas. The trios are uniformly world class, and there’s and ease and fluency with which they respond to each other and Vinson. He has evoked great performances from these pianists and trios as together they bring the pieces alive. It’s a worthy recording to mark ten years of Whirlwind Records and twenty years since Vinson moved to New York from the UK.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

LINK: four forty one at Bandcamp

Categories: CD review

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