March 2006

Matt Renzi
The Cave
Fresh Sound New Talent

Matt Renzi is a mellow-toned, progressively inclined tenor saxophonist and clarinetist. His trio with bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Russell Meissner swings lightly but determinedly within broad bounds. For instance, the opening track "Poison Ivy" is a gentle, harmonically inviting waltz-time tune dealing with the push and pull of three-against-four. In contrast, the next tune cuts every which way but loose from tonality and a steady pulse; the three musicians nevertheless show a commonality of purpose in letting the free-flowing rhythmic and harmonic scheme take them forward naturally.

Ambrosio and Meissner deserve a lot of credit for making the album a success. Like the leader, they share a requisite sensitivity to dynamic concerns and an ability to react instantly and appropriately to one another. Renzi is an adept and lyrical improviser, possessed of a fertile melodic imagination and an intense musicality. There's a paucity of bluesiness to the music, which I cite as an observation, not a criticism. Renzi's folksiness and light-toned manner invite comparison to '60s-vintage Jimmy Giuffre, though his concept is thoroughly up-to-date. Nothing bold here, but it's a mature and creative statement that does its makers proud.

Originally published in March 2006
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