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Jae Sinnett

Still Standing (J-Nett)

Among listeners who are familiar with his earlier work, Jae Sinnett may be best known as representing an evolutionary step forward from the groundwork laid by pioneers such as Don Ellis and Dave Brubeck. He has worked extensively (but not exclusively) with asymmetrical meters, and at his best, he has brought forth compositions that feel a lot more organic and sound a lot more lyrical than much of the work of his predecessors. Doing that effectively isn't easy. Jazz history is full of soloists who “survived” asymmetrical time signatures without really owning them, and those recordings have sometimes been of interest to other musicians but have seldom made it to the ears of broader audiences. Fortunately, Mr. Sinnett has consistently performed and recorded with other musicians who sound so much at home in this idiom that it would be easy to think that they were born playing this way.

"Still Standing" is a trio outing with Jae Sinnett on drums, Terry Burrell on bass and Allen Farnham and Justin Kaufman, both of whom have worked extensively with Mr. Sinnett, splitting the tracks on piano. Although this recording includes some of the sublime odd-meter work that long-time fans would expect, there is also a liberal amount of material in 4/4, and some of the tracks ("Still Standing", "Burrell's Choice" and Mr. Burrell's composition "Long Time Waiting") incorporate a little of his other life influences such as Soul and Rhythm and Blues into the music. Make no mistake though, those latter pieces are advanced enough (especially in some incredible piano passages) that it would be misleading to try to label them as Fusion.

Seven of the nine tracks in this recording are original compositions (six by Mr. Sinnett and one by his bassist, Mr. Burrell), but the two “uncovers” in the album, Cole Porter’s "Love For Sale" and the Hammerstein/Kern composition "All The Things You Are", are worth special mention for the distinct stamp that Mr. Sinnett has placed on these pieces. More often than not, when standards are bent into odd meters, the end result sounds like an interesting gimmick that briefly gets your attention but sends you back to the original version afterwards. Somehow, Mr. Sinnett was able to reengineer these two songs so organically that the listener could be forgiven for assuming that the Porter piece had always been in 7/4 and the Hammerstein/Kern had always been in 5/4. Both of these pieces also have interesting surprises that this writer won't spoil by describing them here.

"See it Through" and "Said and Done" are both meditative ballads that are balanced off by "Nor Easter", which emotionally conjures the storm of that name along with its aftermath, and "Splitting Poles" the selection which Don Ellis junkies (a fraternity to which this writer belongs) might love best. There is some especially interesting kit work (including with the bass drum) in "Splitting Poles" as well.

It might be easy for some casual listeners to take Mr. Sinnett's drumming for granted because he usually integrates his deep playing into the arrangements rather than carving out a lot of extended solo passages for himself. Consequently, this is a recording that should be listened to a few times - originally to get the general feel of the songs, and then again with a special focus on what each individual instrument is doing. The entire trio is having an interesting conversation throughout this recording.

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Bill Tilford