On his 26th (!!!!) release for SteepleChase, tenor saxophonist Rich Perry unveils yet another melodious, mellifluous recording that defies convention. Perry doesn’t bother with trend, location, theme, or possible muse. Instead, he simply reels off sumptuous, yearning compositions, performed by a crack NYC quartet including drummer John Riley, pianist Gary Versace, and bassist Jay Anderson. Perry’s is a voice of mastery and acceptance, of supreme logic and Zen-like candor. Happy Destiny’s 10 tracks spiral meditatively like a leisurely blooming flower, a slowly awakening garden, a nocturnal forest settling in for a long spell of animal-kingdom activity. For the listener, that equates to music of utter relaxation.
Each composition is an unhurried gesture, each jewel-like performance a moment of reflection, of gentle maneuvers and music that traverses bar lines like a dream. The straight-ahead, fragmented-feeling “Iron Buddha” opens—levitation from all quarters. “Everything Hurts” struts a two-and-four pulse, and “Recoleta” steps back into the mist with some adult lullabies. “Luft” delves deeper into the dream state, with Anderson’s enunciations and Riley’s brushes painting a dark canvas on which Perry daubs in Shorter-like impressions. Suddenly, we’re hard-swinging to the gate of “Rebellion Dawgs,” its circular melody leading to a Perry solo that ascends, turns left, and ascends again. His ability to both float above the maelstrom and lead it is unusual. Weariness returns in “Iron Buddha 2,” another sprawling two-four pulse in “Plant Based,” which leads us into the quixotic title track and the closer, “Long Dark Spring,” an acceptance of all that’s passed, good and bad.
Impossible to know what led to this outpouring of solace and near-silence, but Happy Destiny is a beauty, a humbling jolt of musical perfection.