The fact that Matt Blostein and Vinnie Sperrazza share leadership duties isn’t too unusual in and of itself, save for the fact that their unit is a quartet, rather than a larger ensemble. Plus, they don’t share the frontline: Blostein plays alto sax, while his comrade co-leads from his drum kit. Upfront, trombonist Jason Garchik creates strong melodic timbres and Geoff Kraly’s electric bass gives the sound an additional, slinky twist that doesn’t come with an upright. Paraphrase’s eight compositions are split evenly between the writing of both men. Most tracks last less than five minutes and the quartet uses its time smartly to present themes and develop them.
Sperrazza’s drums sit back in the mix, but he very clearly exerts himself. The title track begins the album in a pensive manner anyway, and his cymbals guide the horns as much as his snare punctuations. Here, and throughout the album, Kraly acts as much like an additional melodic voice as he does an anchor.
Several of Blostein’s compositions have melodies where he and Garchik overlap — finishing each other’s thoughts or blending together in harmony, as well as playing in unison. The saxophonist’s crisp tone sounds comfortable with his accomplice’s skill all over his horn’s full range. “Helicopters” doesn’t evoke its subject so much as sound like a chamber ensemble making a passing reference to “Darn That Dream” in the head. (Blostein says the name comes from the childhood memory of whirling seeds.) “Ripple” begins with rubato horns and moves on to incorporate some strong free improvisation.
After leading a version of the band that included guitar and piano, Blostein and Sperrazza have hit upon a lineup, and a writing style, that doesn’t get aggressive but it flows with a sense of adventure.