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April 2005

David Binney
Welcome to Life
Mythology Records

When it came time to pick the cover art for David Binney's Welcome to Life, one hopes the saxophonist was on vacation or locked in a closet. The garish collage on the front of this may be the ugliest cover art for a jazz release all year. The music, however, is familiar Binney all around.

Binney is a bit of a populist. For his bustling postbop, he prefers romantic gestures and broad-chested themes. He works with a compact, layered sound, places sharp arrangements around his melodies and builds excitement, much as a film composer might, through repetition, rising volume and a slow thickening of the group sound. On Welcome to Life, he returns a familiar setup: two horns, guitar, piano, bass and drums, which he exploits for a wide textural range. Binney has no trouble attracting top talent: pianist Craig Taborn brings a touch of M-Base funkiness, Chris Potter turns up again as Binney's saxophone foil, and guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade complete the band.

The effect he gets here recalls some of his earlier efforts, like South or Balance, but with this one he telegraphs his moves. Shimmering cymbals and horn swells, repeating themes and dramatic gestures sound a little too familiar. The freshness has largely run out. To his credit, Binney ends the recording on a high note: "California" sounds like a West Coast blues rock band plunked down in the middle of a jazz outfit, courtesy of guitarist Roger's evocative play. This sort of thing may point to a new direction for Binney.

Originally published in April 2005
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