The key to satisfying group improvisation lies in the delicate dance between relaxation and tension. A comfort level has to be reached for players to successfully communicate, yet danger waits if, let us say, the couch gets too comfy. A few protruding springs are useful in keeping participants alert.
E-Motion brings together nominal leader Rich Perry on tenor saxophone with some familiar associates: pianist Harold Danko, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirshfield, fellow travelers who seem to share a common musical database. Expert players all, none can be faulted on technical or communicative skills. The pieces are all in place here; nonetheless, something’s missing. Let’s call it “edge.”
To approach standards like “What’s New,” “Out of Nowhere,” “There’ll Never Be Another You” and Parker’s “Dewey Square” with assurance outweighing urgency is courting danger. Perry and company, all of whom have proved their worth many times over in other contexts, sound as if pushing the envelope—even a smidge—wasn’t in the session’s schedule.
The exceptions—firm readings of the Thad Jones ballads “A Child Is Born” and “The Summery” (sic) as well as, particularly, an out-of-tempo investigation of “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”—demonstrate the confidence these often-inspired improvisers usually exhibit.