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Troy Roberts: Tales & Tones (Inner Circle)

Review of the 8th album by Australian-bred saxophonist

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Cover of Troy Roberts album Tales and Tones
Troy Roberts album Tales and Tones

For his eighth outing as a leader, the Australian-born saxophonist and composer Troy Roberts didn’t cut corners on hiring accompanists. Bassist Robert Hurst spent time in the ensembles of both Wynton and Branford Marsalis, and has recorded with Diana Krall and many others, in addition to cutting several albums as a leader. Venezuelan pianist Silvano Monasterios has appeared on a few of Roberts’ previous releases and also boasts a lengthy list of live and studio credits. And then there’s drummer extraordinaire Jeff “Tain” Watts, in whose current quartet Roberts is a regular featured member.

The reason it’s important to note the other personnel up front is because each musician plays such a pivotal role in the execution of this music. Each of the nine tracks on Tales & Tones (six penned by Roberts) bears a distinct sonic stamp, calling upon players equally capable of both command and connection. Roberts, who plays tenor and soprano, doesn’t often give turn signals when switching up a tempo or stopping short during a solo to spill out a volley of fractured notes; he needs to rely on the others to intuit those shifts—and, often, to take the initiative.

They do. On the two opening numbers, “Decoration” and “Trams,” the listener quickly learns to expect the unexpected from the quartet, whether a spellbinding, penetrating statement from Monasterios or a display of authority and nuance from Watts and Hurst. On the ballads, “Rivera Mountain” and “Pickapoppy,” a more subtle straight-ahead approach takes over, and if you’re expecting anything tricky from the band’s reading of “Take the ‘A’ Train,” you’ll be waiting till the end; the standard is treated with the reverence it deserves. Some of the wildest, most unabashedly free moments are saved for the finale, Roberts’ “Boozy Bluesy,” an applause-worthy demonstration of both technique and inventiveness.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Tales & Tones by Troy Roberts on iTunes.

Originally Published