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Andrew Rathbun: Sculptures

The development of Canadian-bred, Brooklyn-based tenorman Andrew Rathbun has been a story of successive small revelations. Last heard illustrating a program of vignettes inspired by novelist-poet Margaret Atwood, Rathbun now turns his high beams toward trumpeter-composer Kenny Wheeler, whom he met at the Banff Center for the Arts a few years ago. Sculptures (Fresh Sound New Talent) conveys the aching melancholy and cyclical melodicism that has come to be synonymous with Wheeler; the fact that Wheeler himself is onboard endues the session with more than a touch of outright homage. What’s remarkable is the extent to which Rathbun has inhabited Wheeler’s vision. His 21 original compositions-so fluidly continuous as to resemble a suite-play beautifully to the trumpeter’s cogent strengths. Wheeler, who turns 72 this January, plays with incredible focus and form throughout-and Rathbun, who plays with easygoing assurance and an aversion to cliche, sidles up like a seasoned copilot. Pianist Frank Carlberg, bassist John Hebert and drummer Jeff Hirshfield provide expert accompaniment; Carlberg serves some lovely solos along the way. Altogether, this music cloaks subtle avant-garde proclivities in soft light and open air. It’s by far the most compositionally ambitious record cited here, and it marks a fine entry in Rathbun’s-and Wheeler’s-catalogs of exploration.

Originally Published