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Matt Renzi/Jimmy Weinstein/Masa Kamaguchi: Dream Life

Not just sick and dragging on tour in Europe, the trio of tenor saxophonist Matt Renzi, drummer Jimmy Weinstein and bassist Masa Kamaguchi felt thoroughly uninspired and disjointed on the bandstand. Upon convalescence, the group decided that a repertoire change might be in order. Dream Life is the result. Bookended by two renditions of Ornette Coleman’s “Blues Connotation,” Dream Life is a program of leftfield tunes from a connoisseur’s roster of composers, including Tony Scott, Dave Brubeck and Denny Zeitlin.

The decision was evidently the right one, as the band sounds engaged and inspired throughout. Renzi and company take a slippery, spare approach with the tunes, and its obvious that they’re interested in breaking apart the material even as they’re running through the melodies. Not surprisingly, the strategy works on the Coleman tunes, especially with Renzi riding along on Weinstein’s shifting plates of rhythm and Kamaguchi’s Hadenesque bass drone. As good as that stuff is, though, the group sounds even better on the much less obvious material. Kamaguchi shifts from drone to spring-loaded countermelody and cinches Brubeck’s “The Duke.” Weinstein’s cymbal rolls and sensitive touch lend Scott’s “Israel” a majestic grace. And the diaphanous rendition of the Zeitlin ballad “Quiet Now” belongs under glass. The sensitivity and logic they bring to these tunes ensure that, as far out as they take them, the impression of a melody or harmonic structure lingers sweetly in the background. This has as much to do with Renzi as anyone. He sounds confident throughout, finding his own middle space between Sonny Rollins’ melodic brio and Ornette Coleman’s keening blues. Although Renzi spends more time in the vicinity of Coleman’s neighborhood, his ability to spin out melodies with control, taste and invention goes a long way in making this music work.

Originally Published