More than 40 years after In a Silent Way, the fusion genre is as ripe for updates as ever, what with musicians growing savvier in the application of electronics and ever more willing to approach jazz-rock less as a departure from the mainstream than an offshoot. With Miles in his heart and more recent influences in his head, trumpeter Taylor Haskins fashions a lyrical blend of electro and acoustic on Recombination, gracefully shifting emphasis from one to the other.
As you might guess from titles like “Here Is the Big Sky,” “Clouds From Below Us” and “Upward Mobility,” the music can be spacious and soaring, reflecting the airy, expansive harmonies Haskins played as a member of Maria Schneider’s orchestra. But Recombination has a toughness to go with its dreamy veneer: It’s grounded in the funkish strokes and shrewd syncopations of drummer Nate Smith, and marked by the precision and shifting time signatures Haskins (and Smith) have executed in the Dave Holland band.
A couple of the melodies flirt with smooth-jazz plasticity, and Haskins’ extensive background as a soundtrack artist sometimes tips the music too much toward atmospheric effects. But the filmic approach also lends a cohesive feel to the songs, which grow progressively darker and more reflective. Employing mutes and electronics—and, on the Brazilian-tinged finale, “Forgotten Memory of Something True,” melodica—Haskins effectively varies his attack. So does guitarist Ben Monder, who ranges from elegant single-note solos to moody horn-section-like chordings.