CD Reviews: Fresh Sound New Talent (Part 1)

By Richard Kamins on April 30, 2009 11:23PM


The Sage - Jason Rigby
- Miles Davis's classic mid-60's quintet (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams) created music that has stood the test of time, sounding just as fresh and creative as it did 4 decades ago. Saxophonist Rigby, whose fluid tenor and soprano playing has graced a slew of groups (including Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Chico O'Farrill's Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, David Binney Big Band, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Mike Holober's Gotham Jazz Orchestra, and lots more), was born 5 years after Davis disbanded the group in 1969. This CD, his second as a leader, utilizes the excellent trumpet work of Russ Johnson, the smart electric piano of Mike Holober, and the solid yet exploratory rhythm section of Cameron Brown (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums).

Like Davis's music, each player is vital to the success of the recording. Brown is an exploratory bassist, playing in and around the very active drumming of Cleaver. The duo really pushes on "Crux", with the drummer kicking hard and bass walking furiously. Rigby's melody line, though short, leaves much room the hardy solos that follow. Holober sticks to the Fender Rhodes piano and offers a lighter background for the soloist. Though he is neither loud nor percussive, he is quite melodic and offers color to the proceedings. His floating solo on "Shift of Color" is an ethereal highlight. Johnson is a graceful yet gritty player. He moves effortlessly from articulated notes to bluesy smears in his spotlight in the opening minutes of the title track (Cleaver's drum work is a real treat as well).

...this is ensemble music. Rigby is generous with the solo time for the band and, when he steps out, never dominates the song. And his solos are strong. There's a touch of John Coltrane in his muscular romp at the close of "The Sage." His funky soprano sax spot on "Slip" rises sensuously over the driving rhythm section (the song sounds a lot like Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti.")

This recording has the feel of the 3rd set on a really great night. Everyone is comfortable and the music flows from start to finish. Nothing is overheated or rushed and the listener can concentrate on each player. Jason Rigby has mined the fertile music of Miles Davis and came up with a strong personal statement and I can't wait to hear more.