Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Matt Penman: Catch of the Day

If there’s a criticism to be made of bassist Matt Penman’s new outing (his first in four years), it might be that the album is too thoughtful. But then that’s hardly a criticism. The nine tunes that constitute Catch of the Day could be described as exercises in complex simplicity: Each song has at its core a very simple idea, but Penman’s quartet builds and builds on each small foundation to create something far more elaborate.

“Astrolabe” begins with much deliberation and planning (this is a real composition, you know), but Penman and his sidemen-saxophonist Seamus Blake, pianist Aaron Parks and drummer Eric Harland-gradually let go and grant themselves the freedom to generate a great swell of spontaneous creativity. “Hot Yoga,” a fast number, depends on a repeated sequence of descending chords, against which Harland thrashes with abandon. Likewise, “Frosted” circles around a cycle of arpeggiated chords. It’s a misleading piece of writing; the song is constructed on a simple AAAB motif, but the never-ending changes trick the listener into hearing something more through-composed. “Haven” is perhaps the most dramatic example of this: nothing more than a heartbreakingly beautiful four-chord progression! The effort concludes with a nifty upbeat romp called “Nectarous Master” that rewards our attention to the more cerebral works. It’s the one tune on the album on which the musicians play solely from their hearts instead of their heads.

Originally Published