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David Binney: Cities and Desire

It’s been a mere two months since I reviewed David Binney’s Out of Airplanes. The alto saxophonist’s new album sounds different than its predecessor but it continues a line of strong works.

For Cities and Desires, Binney assembled an acoustic quintet, with keyboardist Craig Taborn carrying over from the previous album. Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner shares the frontline, and twenty-somethings Thomas Morgan (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums) fill out the rhythm section. Each track is named for a different city, but he doesn’t try to recreate the mood of each place through the music. The only possible exception comes in “New York City,” which is marked by clipped, twisting melody lines. Otherwise, what comes across instead could be described as the image of personal reflections Binney might have had while visiting these places; his deceased parents lived in Los Angeles and Miami, and the tracks bearing those names have pensive, balladlike qualities.

The saxophonist says his writing incorporates the feeling of rock and simplicity of pop, and that can be detected in the structures of many of these songs. Weiss often drives a piece with a straight 4/4 beat, and, melodically, Binney pulls emotion out of a simple chord change with the deftness of a brainy singer-songwriter like Rufus Wainwright. A simple formula perhaps, but there is nothing simplistic about the final result.

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