Saltman Knowles: Yesterday’s Man

Mark Saltman (bass) and William Knowles (piano) lead a revolving group of musicians who perform contemporary jazz while maintaining the sense of adventure of current straightahead players. Most interesting is the use of soprano steel pans (drums) in both solo and ensemble passages. Victor Provost gets an amazing array of melodic lines out of the instrument. Lori Williams-Chisholm sings throughout the album, and her vocalese functions as an addition instrument in many places, blending with the steel pan, trumpet and saxophones. Although her higher register swoops can get to be a bit excessive, she works with the music impressively.

Since this is contemporary fare, the band is never in danger of flying off the rails. They keep the funk at arm’s length, skillfully skipping between a strong backbeat and a swinging bridge on “Cry.” On the other hand, Saltman and drummer Jimmy “Junebug” Jackson could’ve stretched beyond the groove of “Shesh” during the sax solo, or taken “Theme in Search of a Film” out of its Mission: Impossible-style 5/4 riff, just to shake things up. On the lyrical front, it’s a little hard to take the bright, impeccable execution of the title track knowing the lyrics were inspired by a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Still Saltman Knowles come close to pulling off a rare feat in the contemporary genre: blending style and substance.