I should not like this record. It has overdubs and track-to-track personnel changes, both pet peeves. Judi Silvano, an artist I have never gotten, sings one song. Five players on the date contribute seven originals, which usually means that a leader is more generous than wise.
But on Tom Jones’ “Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” Adam Kolker overdubs alto flute, bass clarinet, flute and clarinet in a seductive, airy introductory fugue. It becomes a rapt, intricately detailed duet, Kolker’s tenor saxophone in the left channel, John Abercrombie’s guitar in the right. In a world of boisterous in-your-face tenors, Kolker, with his continuous subtle melodic discoveries, makes you come to him. He is, with Rich Perry, one of the two great less-is-more tenor players deserving of much more attention.
The core group is a trio with bassist John Hébert and drummer Billy Mintz. Rhythmic, harmonic and melodic functions are democratically distributed on a light, dry version of Monk’s “Let’s Call This.” The trio also plays Mintz’s “Flight”—just a wisp, but it provokes patient, probing soliloquies from Kolker and especially Hébert, while its composer stirs and rustles. On three tracks, pianist Russ Lossing enters, carefully. His “Song Along the Way” is a soft, fervent incantation, right in Kolker’s sweet spot. Abercrombie also plays on Kolker’s “Kevin’s Birthday Blues.” His guitar solo is teetering and suspenseful, a whispered wail.
The biggest surprise is a stripped-bare version of “Nature Boy,” with only Kolker’s fluttering, swirling flute in the left channel and new singer Kay Matsukawa in the right. With dramatic authenticity, she maneuvers the peaks and valleys and hesitations of this song and brings you deeply into the story. As for Judi Silvano’s wordless hysterics on her own “Boscarob,” I’m still working on it.