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Tom Christensen: New York School

Multireedist Tom Christensen likes the New York School of Art and its house poet, Frank O’Hara, so much that he conceived his new recording as a tribute. But this quartet date has none of O’Hara’s talkiness or the sort of form-averse music that painters like Jackson Pollack tend ed to inspire. It’s smart, finely tailored postbop with an emphasis on craftsmanship over flash-just the sort of session that guitarist Michael Musillami would pick for his label, Playscape, which has come to specialize in this sort of no-nonsense modern jazz.

Christensen shares the front line with fellow multireedist, Walt Weiskopf. While the two trade mildly contrasting solos throughout, the real interest is in the taut unison passages that open and close most tunes. Christensen and Weiskopf tend to match like horns and blend remarkably well on Christensen’s complicated themes. Bassist Kermit Driscoll gives the music a minimal foundation as percussionist Satoshi Takeishi throws in all manner of exotic percussion alongside his basic drum-kit sound. Christensen blunts the impact a little with his 12-minute suite of 12-tone vignettes and duo and solo spots, “Oranges,” but that comes at the end. You’ll likely be too pleased with the sharp, compact music that precedes it to let it bring you down.

Originally Published