Scott Tixier: Cosmic Adventure

Considering its unconventional frontline of Scott Tixier’s violin and Yvonnick Prene’s harmonica, Cosmic Adventure is surprisingly conventional jazz. The album’s nine tracks are mostly A-B forms, mostly swinging, mostly with lyrical, hummable melodies and logical, melodically developed solos. “Conventional” is by no means a pejorative here, however; Cosmic Adventure is a fresh, thoroughly enjoyable recording.

The aforementioned frontline gets much of the credit for the music’s quality. Tixier has a remarkably vocal tone, and he employs it with considerable suspense-whether working with the natural drama of the chord changes (“Beam Me to Mars”) or injecting his own brand of tension (“Maze Walker”). The latter, the album opener, reveals Tixier to be a canny musical thinker. The tune is a chops-heavy affair, built on a descending arc. Later, the violinist centers his solo in the upper register, applying enough peaks and valleys to blow off some steam without arriving at a full-on release. That comes with Prene, who also brandishes a meaty sound, simultaneously relieving Tixier’s tension and ratcheting up his own-a kind of conceptual equivalent to circular breathing.

The rhythm section is exemplary as well. Pianist Glenn Zaleski does some of the best work of his career, and his solo on “100,000 Hours” includes unusual harmonic devices that seem to reshape the song completely. Neither bassist Luques Curtis nor drummer Justin Brown take solos, but they are indispensable. Curtis’ steady hand on “100,000 Hours” establishes its mixed-meter rhythm, while Brown’s nimbleness across the kit does even more to give form to “Mr. Tix” than Prene’s dramatic melody. Cosmic Adventure may not reinvent the wheel, but it proves once again the elegance and depth of the original creation.

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