Sam Bardfeld: Periodic Trespasses (The Saul Cycle)

Violinist Sam Bardfeld tries his hand at writing and narration as well as bandleading and composition on Periodic Trespasses (The Saul Cycle), crafting a tongue-in-cheek tale of a luckless dude named Saul and his abiding passion for the Renaissance krummhorn. The vignettes are precious and goofy; thankfully, Bardfeld’s music operates at a much higher plane of wit. His melodies are arch and appealing, sampling lots of harmonies without committing to any one key and dancing easily over quick rhythms or hanging lightly on even, slow beats. His violin playing always sounds relaxed even when what he’s playing is anything but easy, and he can suggest a melodic direction with a single gesture.

Also accompanying Saul on his lifecycle are trumpeter Ron Horton, vibist Tom Beckham, bassist Sean Conly and drummer Satoshi Takeishi. The combination of trumpet, violin and vibes gives the quintet a cool, modern sound; Horton and Beckham deliver simpatico solos, angular yet fun to follow, while Conly and Takeishi maneuver smartly in support.

Though there is a certain sameness to a lot of the tracks, Bardfeld and company roll enough small surprises into their playing to keep Saul lively throughout. Just be sure you know how to make your music-playing device skip those vignettes.