Josh Sinton’s Predicate Trio: making bones, taking draughts, bearing unstable millstones pridefully, idiotically, prosaically (Iluso)

Review of the baritone saxophonist and bass clarinetist's "comeback" 10th album

Cover of making bones... album by Josh Sinton's Predicate Trio
Cover of making bones… album by Josh Sinton’s Predicate Trio

Baritone saxophonist and bass clarinetist Josh Sinton—a steady presence in Brooklyn’s avant-garde jazz scene since the early 1990s—caused a bit of a ripple recently when he announced he was taking a hiatus from music. Citing the rigors of making a living as a musician while supporting a family, Sinton concluded that a career reassessment was essential. His self-imposed break was evidently short-lived, however, because his comeback album (and 10th album as a leader) has already arrived, bringing with it a rush of euphoric melody and bracing free improv that suggests a reevaluation break for artists isn’t a half-bad idea.

Like its sprawling mouthful of a title, this album bursts out of the gate as Sinton and his high-velocity Predicate Trio—rounded out by cellist Christopher Hoffman (Henry Threadgill) and drummer Tom Rainey (Tim Berne) and making its recorded debut here—chaotically yet meticulously zigzag through six compositions and three improvised pieces with a fierce, in-your face attack that’s almost punk rock. With Rainey’s jagged, multi-directional frenzy of beats and the bow-sawing and plucking of Hoffman’s cello serving as anchors, Sinton runs wild, switching off between bari and bass clarinet for low honks and piercing screams.

Sinton has referenced both Washington, D.C. post-hardcore heroes Fugazi and Boston “low-rock” pioneers Morphine as influences, and on making bones those unique voices emerge, alongside Harry Carney and Julius Hemphill. After “mersible,” a brief one-minute-and-change droning opener, Sinton and Co. hit full throttle. The 10-minute tour de force “bell-ell-ell-ell-ells” swings like there’s no tomorrow with Sinton’s breathless hail of thrilling hooks and gnarly caterwauling giving way to Hoffman’s cello squawks and Rainey’s cascading percussion, while “unreliable mirrors,” “propulse,” and “blockblockblock” rage with firebreathing abandon. Josh Sinton may be weighing his future in music, but this much is certain: He’s made one of 2018’s best records.