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Adam Rogers/David Binney: R&B

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Both Adam Rogers and David Binney are known for composing and playing ambitious originals that spring from postbop into a wealth of other genres and cultural hybrids. But on R&B, the two musicians are intent on crystallizing their longstanding familiarity and adventurous instincts into a more classic format. Abetted by top-notch peers Reuben Rogers on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums, they deliver sage but sparsely appointed treatments of slightly obscure songs by well-known composers.

The results are conventional but rarely uninspired. The frontline leaders distinctively harmonize the rapid and tricky unison head arrangement on Miles Davis’ “Sippin’ at Bell’s” and flip the melody and counterline to Charlie Parker’s “Ah-Leu-Cha” with the panache and precision of kindred spirits who have played together for more than a quarter-century. They are also complementary. On Monk’s “Introspection,” Binney’s alto nails the composer’s angular innovation and tersely skewed swing rhythm, while Rogers’ guitar solo opts for a more deconstructive approach in the vein of ace Monk interpreter Steve Lacy.

The slower-paced numbers are equally satisfying. Binney’s lush horn passages are resolutely balladic throughout Gordon Parks’ “Don’t Misunderstand,” while Reuben Rogers, well versed in reverent ambience thanks to his long tenure with Charles Lloyd, provides luminous support on bass. Adam Rogers plays beautifully without cliché in his graceful tumble through Weill and Gershwin’s “My Ship,” which boasts another stellar showing from the rhythm section, including Reuben Rogers’ solo and Cleaver’s brushwork and cymbals. (Cleaver also notably deploys cymbal accents to differentiate himself from the unison line on Wayne Shorter’s “Africaine.”)

The set ends with a rousing version of Jimmy McHugh’s “I Feel a Song Coming On,” which is faithful to the rendition on Sonny Rollins Plus 4. Like the rest of the choices on R&B, the notion of closing with an uptempo finale feels purposefully ritualistic, but the caliber of the execution elevates a standard trope into an heirloom-value outcome.

Originally Published