Criss Cross Jazz
Oceanos, the latest installment in a series of sessions co-led by American saxophonist Binney and Venezuelan pianist Simon, presents a perfect balance of sophisticated writing and creative improvisation. Make no mistake: There is some rhythmically and harmonically complex composition here. If jazz can be compared to literature—and whereas Kenny G is Nicholas Sparks—then these two guys are Salman Rushdie.
The leaders enlisted bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade to round out the central quartet, and got additional help from the Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza, guitarist Adam Rogers, trumpeters Shane Endsley and Jesse Newman, trombonist Alan Ferber and percussionist Pernell Saturnino. For all the personnel, the music never feels too dense or weighed down. On the contrary, there is a lightness and airiness to it, much of it owing to Souza’s wordless vocals, which recall those of the great Milton Nascimento.
Much of the music is played in unusual time signatures, some of which are difficult to count off without concentration. The intensely focused and confident work coming from Binney’s alto sax and Simon’s piano are integral to the aesthetic, but just as important is Blade’s restless drumming. For the last few minutes of “Impossible Question,” piano and bass state the theme while Blade gets to solo at length and with abandon. The ratio of structure to freedom is emblematic of what makes Oceanos such a gratifying record.