Jonathon Crompton: Intuit (New Lab)

A review of the Australian saxophonist's debut album

Jonathon Crompton, Intuit
The cover of Intuit by Jonathon Crompton

“Intuit,” the title tune from Australian expat Jonathon Crompton’s debut, opens auspiciously, with Crompton’s alto squeaking the shreds of a melody between squealing harmonics, as Ingrid Laubrock’s tenor hard-tongues a honking counterpoint. Before long, they’re joined by Adam Hopkins’ bass and Kate Gentile’s percussion, both jabbing at the pulse without really taking command. By the time Patrick Breiner’s tenor joins the mix, “Intuit” has established itself as the best kind of collective improvisation—built not around playing, but listening and responding.

Frustratingly, there’s not a lot more of that collective derring-do on the album. “Apathy,” with Breiner on bass clarinet, has some lovely, slow-churning interplay, with Laubrock shining especially bright, but much of the album finds Crompton focusing on a sort of sax-centered choral approach, where the interplay depends more on the intertwining voices than on rhythm-driven improvisation.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly on the rhythm section-less “Primacy of Gesture,” when the interplay centers on Crompton and tenorist Patrick Booth. Listening to the two of them interact is like eavesdropping on the conversation of a pair of gifted thinkers, with each statement parried by an illuminating and provocative countermelody.

Crompton doesn’t leave things entirely to chance, and there are some lovely sax chorales here, particularly on “Courage” and “Catherine.” Even so, the best moments of Intuit are more about promise than artistic achievement, as Crompton seems only just stepping up to his promise as a composer and improviser.

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J.D. Considine

J.D. Considine has been writing about jazz and other forms of music since 1977. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Musician, Spin, Vibe, Blender, Revolver, and Guitar World. He was music critic at the Baltimore Sun for 13 years, and jazz critic at the Globe and Mail for nine. He has lived in Toronto since 2001.