Before multi-instrumentalist Jason Robinson became one of the most respected soloists and bandleaders in jazz’s experimental wing, one of his professors was Anthony Davis, the composer and pianist who has established himself in jazz, classical and avant-garde circles. He and Robinson began working together in 1998, and Cerulean Landscape reunites them for the first time since 2001. It’s also one of the few sessions in recent years where Davis has been an active participant instrumentally as well as conceptually.
This is clearly a collaborative venture. Robinson and Davis each wrote three pieces, with a seventh by Jason Sherbundy. The roles continually alternate between soloist and accompanist, though many times that distinction becomes meaningless due to the large amount of unison/collective segments.
Robinson plays three horns (soprano, alto and tenor) plus alto flute. He’s at his most intense on soprano vehicles like “Vicissitudes (For Mel),” where Davis drops out for a stretch then buttresses the remaining passages with splintering chordal flurries. Robinson is nearly as decisive on tenor throughout an update of Davis’ “Of Blues and Dreams,” as the pianist’s fierce playing fuels fiery responses. “Andrew” approximates a straight-ahead tune in its opening portions, then switches into a looser, freer mode with Davis’ jagged lines and Robinson’s tenor smoothly working off each other. “Translucence” spotlights Robinson on alto flute, with Davis adding teeming, engaging textures. The finale, “Cerulean Seas and Viridian Skies,” blends Davis’ elegant yet dense phrases with Robinson’s warm, soulful tenor. It’s the perfect conclusion to a disc where mood and interplay are more important than volume or scale.