Drew Gress: 7 Black Butterflies

Drew Gress image 0
Ron Wynn

Drew Gress

Exemplary playing and spirited compositions distinguish Drew Gress’ third disc of original music. This combo includes three players equally at ease in lead or accompanying roles in alto saxophonist Tim Berne, trumpeter Ralph Alessi and pianist Craig Taborn, while drummer Tom Rainey is just as confident teaming with Gress to supply rhythmically vibrant foundations.

With the exception of one 59-second teaser from Gress, the pieces feature attractive melodies, intense interaction and ample but not excessive solos. From Berne’s explosive contribution on “New Leaf” and Alessi’s consistently pungent and dynamic lines and Taborn’s teeming phrases and support, the group nicely blends individual fireworks and cohesive unison work. While the three longer pieces, particularly “Bright Idea” and “Low Slung/High Strung,” demonstrate more flexibility in terms of varied moods and structural contrasts, the quintet doesn’t sound any less aggressive or compelling on the shorter works. Gress spends most of his time building and shaping the pieces, but he also displays his own fiery solo skills in disciplined insertions.