|There are not a few critics who paint a bleak picture of jazz as it stands today: jazz is propped up by worn-out ideas, and it lacks the strength and spirit of adventure to instigate yet another musical revolution, as has been its will and want throughout its history. Thank goodness there are always musicians who can silence this "jazz pessimism" and remind us that this demanding art form can stake a claim to having been the 20th century's most exciting music.
It likewise has what it takes to be a fundamental influence on the music of the new millennium. New York saxophonist David Binney is one such musician leading the way into the 21st century. He is a courageous spirit who, influenced by the many styles and periods of jazz along with rock, funk, and on through to modern classic, plays and composes a unique music of hitherto unheard of beauty.
David Binney was born in the "Sunshine State" of Florida, grew up in California, and currently pursues his career in New York. His name may not be familiar to every jazz fan, but the 39 year old saxophonist enjoys a fantastic reputation among musicians, as is evidenced by his impressive resume. This includes performances and tours with the Gil Evans Orchestra, Maria Schneider, Cecil McBee, and Bobby Previte, and CDs with Uri Caine, Leni Stern, Drew Gress, Boomish, Lonnie Plaxico, The Jazzhole, Medeski, Martin &Wood. He has also been a member of such groups as Lan Xang, The Lost Tribe, and Global Theory, and formed his own record label, Mythology Records. Although he also plays soprano and tenor saxophones, his main instrument is alto saxophone. Over the years he has developed a sound that once heard is not forgotten. His voice on the saxophone takes in the emotional spectrum of the human voice; it can be soft and quiet at the beginning, then striking, clear-cut and imperious, and finally penetrating, shouting, entreating.
All of these various emotional facets are to be found on his ACT debut Album, South. David Binney invited some of his closest musical associates to the recording. He has assembled an illustrious sextet, a band of band leaders: Chris Potter must be counted as one of the most important tenor saxophonists of his generation. He is a man of many talents who is also a masterful soprano and alto saxophonist, bass clarinetist, and pianist.
His latest work has been with the Dave Holland Quintet, but he has also been impressive in his play with Paul Motian, Steve Swallow, John Patitucci, and Antonio Farao, along with work with the Mingus Big Band. He plays all the saxophone solos on the legendary group Steely Dan's latest album. Guitarist Adam Rogers has to his credit work with the bands of Randy Brecker, Jacky Terasson, Alexander Sipiagin, and Bill Evans. Rogers also worked with David Binney in the group The Lost Tribe.
Uri Caine is one of the most versatile pianists on the New York jazz scene. He recently caused a sensation with re-workings of classical pieces. With his perfect intonation and time, bassist Scott Colley has previously shined on albums from Andrew Hill, Jim Hall, Carmen McRae, Fred Hersch, and Renee Rosness. He has also led various groups of his own. With his sensitive playing, drummer Brian Blade has supported such icons as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Seal, Daniel Lanois, and Joshua Redman. He also supports and leads Fellowship, one of the most impressive groups on the contemporary jazz scene. Jim Black, who appears on two cuts, is one of today's most innovative drummers.
On South David and his friends celebrate music which, despite the brilliance of the soloists, is more oriented around the ensemble playing. With his sextet the saxophonist and composer is able to put into play his distinctive feeling for dynamics and drama. In every composition David Binney surprises us with the art of a melodic guide who pursues unfamiliar paths, and yet immediately gains the listeners' trust. His complex, multi-layered compositions often trigger a celebratory atmosphere and possess a hymn-like quality, as in the canon-like opening piece Out Beyond Ideas. The transition between notation and innovation is artfully done on South, and it's a delightful contrast when after all the inclination towards structure the band suddenly launches into free collective playing, as in Tangles Outcome.
South - after 71 minutes one must come to the inevitable conclusion that in jazz the winds of change are blowing from a completely new direction.