Patience is a virtue of which Adam Cruz is amply possessed. The release of Milestone, the drummer’s debut CD as a leader, coincides with his 40th birthday, which also marks the 10th anniversary of his role alongside bassist Ben Street in pianist Danilo Perez’s trio.
The influence of that decade-long stint on Cruz’s writing is obvious in the eight vibrant, often-ambitious compositions that make up Milestone. But Cruz’s patience is manifest in the way he allows each piece to unfurl slowly, each section and solo seeming to dissolve into the next. The tunes tend to be long but maintain an intimacy; with the expanded time comes more room to breathe.
Cruz has assembled a stellar band for the date. Street was the obvious choice, and another long-term collaborator, Edward Simon, rounds out a rhythm section more concerned with laying a foundation than with driving relentlessly forward. Guitarist Steve Cardenas also plays a vital role, whether engaging with Simon to create the shimmering atmospheres of the dusky “Crepuscular,” or weaving spidery lines through the slinky grooves of “The Gadfly.”
The frontline is staffed by three gifted saxophonists: Chris Potter on tenor and either Miguel Zenón on alto or Steve Wilson on soprano. The opening tracks provide Potter and Zenón with fuel to embark on extended digressions—Potter off on a typically muscular tear through “Secret Life,” Zenón wending a more fleetly sinuous path into “Emjé.” Cruz obviously wanted this session to be all about the band, and his spare compositions stay out of the way, offering melodic fodder to instigate the soloists and the space and freedom with which to explore.