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January/February 2007

Ari Roland
Sketches From a Bassist's Album
Smalls

Three of the four members of this quartet—bassist Ari Roland, tenor saxophonist Chris Byars and pianist Sacha Perry—are among the most accomplished, genuinely innovative and consistently exciting young players in jazz on their respective instruments. Their music is easily misunderstood as bop. It is actually the great language of bop subtly yet profoundly transformed, reconfigured, revitalized and made relevant to our most uncertain present moment.

Ari Roland writes strange, slanted melodies with counterintuitive harmonies. Their dry lyricism lingers in the mind. Like bop, there is tension in Roland’s music, but unlike bop, it never resolves where or how you expect. He almost always solos arco, and performances here like “Mensch Blues” demonstrate his articulate fluidity. He also keeps exceptional, powerful time, and can run you over with sheer speed on occasional pizzicato blowouts like “Swamp Thing Goes to the Indy 500.”

Chris Byars’ sound on tenor is so light and supple that it is possible to miss the sophistication of his ideas and the elegant, finished complexity of his designs. Sacha Perry, too, is a player who sounds mainstream until you perceive the off-center, slightly jagged edges of his sweet chords.

Most good jazz recordings are either inspired or well-executed. Only a few are both. Sketches From a Bassist’s Album is one.

Originally published in January/February 2007
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