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David Binney: South

You may not have heard of David Binney, but plenty of his peers have. The saxophonist parlayed a long CV into a stellar band for his debut recording, South, on ACT. He shares the front line with tenor saxophonist Chris Potter. His rhythm section includes guitarist Adam Rogers, pianist Uri Caine, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade. (Jim Black sits in for Blade on two tunes).

Binney may have had the firepower on hand with this lineup, but he approached this music with an admirably restrained hand. This is no blowing session; the real stars of the show are Binney’s compositional skills. He prefers unison lines, overlapping phrases that remain graceful and the occasional bout of collective improvisation. He writes attractive postbop themes that resemble some work by Ben Allison and the Jazz Composers Collective, though without the JCC’s quirks or creative range. A few pieces even sound reminiscent of the music Wayne Horvitz makes with his unplugged Zony Mash band, especially on “Leaving the Sea,” with its unison arpeggios in the piano and guitar and its evocative melody. The band mostly colors within the lines, playing with functionality and rarely letting their personalities hang out. Still, Potter sneaks in some outsized moments.

Originally Published