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Martin Krusche: Friendship Pagoda

German-born tenor saxophonist Martin Krusche spent several years in New Orleans, soaking up that city’s pervasive modern jazz spirit, before settling in New York. So when it came time to make his first recording, he returned to the Crescent City to employ some of his erstwhile associates. Most notable among them is trumpeter Nicholas Payton, one of the brightest stars of his generation. Also present are Terence Blanchard’s bassist, David Pulphus; Los Hombres Calientes pianist Victor Atkins; and the broadly experienced drummer Geoff Clapp.

Krusche’s music eschews run-of-the-mill postbop formulas. All the tunes are his own, with improvisations and predetermined elements often indistinguishable, as in the trumpet-tenor duet over a nonwalking bass line in “I’d Like to Sing.” Another especially fresh-sounding track, “Phoenix,” imposes modified blues changes over an intricate underpinning derived from an African rhythmic pattern.

Still, the music is solidly grounded in the modern mainstream, with the soloists capable of great lyricism and hard swinging. The leader’s solos exhibit thoughtful construction with an absence of cliches. And his reading of Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge,” especially, reveals a warm melodiousness. The other members of the group also demonstrate strong improvisational skills with Payton’s work powerfully validating his high acclaim. His solos are consistent gems of thematic development and emotional shaping.

A fine debut.

Originally Published