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

Andrew Rathbun Quartet: Numbers & Letters

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Saxophonist Andrew Rathbun and his compatriots tap into powerful emotions without succumbing to them. Rathbun remains resolutely in control (and coherent) at even the fastest tempos, and his balladry resonates with hard-won peace as well as pathos. His interplay with drummer Bill Stewart offers an unforced evocation of the classic John Coltrane/Elvin Jones dialogues, but Stewart, pianist Phil Markowitz and bassist Jay Anderson can also lay down a rock-solid foundation. (Co-producer Taylor Haskins also plays trumpet on two tracks.) Markowitz’s solos, meanwhile, up the rhythmic complexity even further, pushing things forward as he adds unexpected fillips; his blend of gentility and improvisational aggression sometimes recalls Andrew Hill.

“Bad Call,” the opening track, feels darker and more ominous than most of the other offerings, but in many ways it sets the tone. After a lurking bass/piano intro, Rathbun and pianist Phil Markowitz skitter in with boppish flurries laid over an ascending chord pattern, tempering the urgency with a joyful sense of exploration and discovery. Markowitz nonetheless cuts deep, interspersing his runs with jagged-edged splays; Rathbun, for all the richness of his tone, sounds equally driven as he unfurls quick-fingered curlicues, breaking into occasional Trane-like squawks to intensify the mood even more.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published