When everyone in a band gets credit for an album track, it often means the music was the result of a spontaneous performance. It speaks to the strength of the group when those shared efforts contain the same sense of direction heard in the tunes written by individual members of the band. Two of the seven tracks on the debut by the quartet Grass Roots are credited to the four musicians, and they reveal the cohesion at work here. In “Ricochet,” alto saxophonist Darius Jones and baritone saxophonist Alex Harding begin by trading lines and completing each other’s thoughts. The tone poem “Hovering Above” sounds spare and open, but the mood all four men create has a high level of interaction recalling the heyday of the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
Along with the saxophonists, Grass Roots features bassist Sean Conly and drummer Chad Taylor. Jones contributes two songs while the rest of the band members offer one apiece. It’s hard to separate one composer’s work from the others, since everyone plays an integral role in each cut. At the start of the album, Taylor’s cascading fills and crashes play up the symmetrical horn lines in Jones’ “Hotttness.” Jones begins Taylor’s “Whatiss” with some throat-clearing growls before bass and baritone help set up a groove. Conly’s “Schnibbett” has lean horn parts that hold together thanks to a slow bass vamp, eventually leading to searing baritone wails.
All four of these musicians are involved in several different projects, but hopefully they’ll have opportunities to give this one the priority it deserves.