Sometimes group constructs simply sound dead on. It might be crafty professionalism, insightful bandleading or dumb-luck simpatico that gets the job done – doesn’t really matter in the end, does it? Of course, sometimes it can be a simple case of friendship and shared perspective. The five musicians that connect to make saxophonist Matt Bauder’s second Day In Pictures album such a pleasure are not only pals, but neighbors of a sort – Brooklynites who see each other around because of parallel interests. Their chemistry is central to the energy leaping from this album of engaging freebop, a record that mandates we all keep an eye on Bauder’s future moves.
This band’s 2010 debut raised some eyebrows: it’s always great to hear a new ensemble address inside-out notions in a coordinated and enticing way. That album’s “Parks After Dark” seemed like a hat-tip to the best Black Saint titles. Proud, aggressive, thoughtful, willing to step on a few toes. Nightshades is a logical leap that trusts its own swagger while banking on the bonds of its creators to turn these relatively simple tunes into memorable blasts of improv. Trumpeter Nate Wooley, pianist Kris Davis, drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Jason Ajemian follow Bauder’s script – which harks to late-Blue Note templates as well as overlooked gems like The Leaders’ Out Here Like This – head-solo-head designs shaken up a bit and addressed by musicians at ease with their idiosyncrasies.
The constant percolation on “Rule Of Thirds” is a central metaphor for the action. Lilt helps contour each of the performances to some degree, but at several points there’s an undercurrent of anxiety afoot, an ensemble-wide skittishness that helps shape the aesthetic as much as the arrangements do. Happily, this is accomplished in a seductive manner. Rather than daring you to submit, Nightshades pitches a bit of woo (don’t miss the title track’s ersatz N’awlins mess-around). Chopped-up swing is swing nonetheless, and craggy polyphony is the go-to lingo for a generation raised on multi-tasking. It’s often that daredevil ideas share the same airspace here. From Wooley’s wailing smears to Davis’ poised frags – and no I don’t want to forget the boss’s rich squalls – a coordination of purpose marks the playfulness at hand. These guys sound like they rather be nowhere else than the middle of this fray. Rapport – you really can’t beat it.