Logan Strosahl Spec Ops: Sure (Sunnyside)

A review of the saxophonist's fourth album

Sure by Logan Strosahl Spec Ops
The cover of Sure by Logan Strosahl Spec Ops

Saxophonist Logan Strosahl has been nothing if not prolific since releasing his debut, Up Go We, on Sunnyside in 2015. That was a septet recording, as was 2017’s Book I of Arthur; in between, the newcomer released a duo set, Janus, with pianist Nick Sanders. Each of the three was an ambitious undertaking, collating influences from Renaissance-era classical music to free jazz to songbook standards. Strosahl gave the impression, from day one, that he wasn’t about taking the easy way out.

Sure, his fourth release for Sunnyside, is a trio session, with Henry Fraser on bass and Allan Mednard playing drums. Strosahl, who has heretofore stuck to the alto, adds tenor sax and flute this time. What he doesn’t do, however, is simplify the music. A trimmer format, for him, is no excuse to coast. Even when Sure touches down where saxophone-led trios often go—a walking bass serves as the foundation of “Bark,” the lead track; nothing unusual about that—there’s almost always something unconventional going on elsewhere.

“Coming on the Hudson” is the shortest tune here, at three-and-a-half minutes, and rhythmically it’s rooted in the blues. But Strosahl doesn’t allow his horn to linger where the rhythm section suggests it should. He dives and darts, trills and weaves, flies ahead of and lurks behind the others. “Isfahan” is a conversational ballad suggesting exotica and intrigue; “Chacarera,” a flute piece, rarely stays on track for long, Mednard’s restlessness on the toms and Fraser’s deep plunges giving Strosahl carte blanche to make up new melodies as they occur to him.

Sure is less of a set piece than the Arthur extravaganza, but it’s satisfying for its own reasons, displaying another side of this young, impressive composer and musician.

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Jeff Tamarkin

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Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.