On the Seattle quartet’s first recording since Hope in 2004, Matt Jorgensen + 451 continues to explore a particular brand of jazz-rock fusion that is more subtle than your average pounding, thrashing, over-the-top variety. However, leader Jorgensen’s fiery and excessively busy drumming often overwhelms and distracts from the group sound as well as the soloists. Mark Taylor plays mostly a sweet-toned alto, with a lyrical, unhurried and restrained improvisational approach. Keyboardist Ryan Burns has a similarly controlled style on organ, Moog and Fender Rhodes, the latter played with a gorgeous chimelike tone. Bassist Phil Sparks exhibits a thick and penetrating sound and a melodic jazz sensibility in his solos.
Jorgensen’s drum work fits best on the more adventurous pieces, such as “Sweetpea,” with its industrial-strength, piston-pumping theme, and Lennon/McCartney’s “Helter Skelter,” with Burns’ multi-textured Moog solo and Taylor’s soaring alto. Joe Henderson’s “Power to the People” is another well-balanced track, featuring excellent solos by special guest trumpeter Thomas Marriott, Taylor on tenor and Burns on Fender Rhodes, while Jorgensen offers his most sensitive and compatible support. The rockish version of Neil Young’s “Ohio” also works well, highlighted by guest guitarist Jason Goessl’s rousing distortion-laden improv. The other tunes are also full of stimulating solos, including the soulful “New Beginnings,” the bluesy “Birds,” the mellow “Spectre,” the loping “Lock Down” and the plaintive “Entomology.” A less intense Jorgensen would have made these five selections even better.