Some jazz folks who live in Manhattan are so provincial that if you asked them to compose a bunch of songs that were mindful of other cities, they probably couldn't do it. Writing about the pleasures of Rome or Montreal doesn't come easy when one's idea of international travel is taking a subway ride from Central Park West to Union Square. But native Californian turned New York City resident David Binney is a jazz improviser with a broader, more sophisticated view of the world, and Cities and Desire finds the alto saxophonist using original material to pay tribute to a variety of cities. The Big Apple is one of them, but Binney also turns his thoughts to places ranging from Miami and Los Angeles in the United States to Montreal and Toronto in Canada to London, Rome and Lisbon in Europe. Binney (who forms an acoustic quintet with tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, pianist Craig Taborn, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Dan Weiss) accomplishes that without lyrics; this post-bop-oriented album (which occasionally detours into mildly avant-garde territory) is totally instrumental. But a lack of lyrics certainly doesn't prevent Binney from expressing his feelings about various cities -- feelings ranging from excitement on "Montreal" to melancholia on "Miami." Jazz, of course, can be extremely personal, and what Binney expresses all comes down to his own experiences. The 74-minute CD's liner notes (written by Ted Panken) explain that the melancholia expressed on "Miami" has to do with the fact that Binney's father was there before his death, and the Indian flavor on "Toronto" (which features Weiss on Indian tabla drums) was inspired by that city's abundance of Indian immigrants. Some seasoned travelers might lament the absence of their favorite cities (where are Madrid, Chicago and Barcelona?), but Cities and Desire is a thoughtful, engaging project that is likely to go down in history as one of Binney's finest albums.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson