David Binney

Graylen Epicenter

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On some level, saxophonist, composer, and arranger David Binney's Graylen Epicenter is a restless extension of the three previous recordings he's issued on his Mythology imprint. That said, it is also his most relentlessly ambitious, with his largest cast ever. Vocalist Gretchen Parlato appears on most of these cuts as another instrument in Binney's tonal and harmonic arsenal, as she sings wordlessly a great deal here. Binney's alto and soprano is also assisted by bassist Eivind Opsvik, guitarist Wayne Krantz, pianist Craig Taborn, percussionist Kenny Wollesen, drummer Brain Blade (who appears on all but one cut here, where Dan Weiss holds the chair, and both drummers play simultaneously on nearly half the album). Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and tenor saxophonist Chris Potter lend considerably to the diverse, intoxicating meld of textures and atmospheres found here. Opener "All of Time" is a relentless sprint that features a killer drum solo by both drummers. The title track, with a knotty percussion and piano vamp and an elegant, three-horn counter melody, give way to Krantz on electric guitar; he plays languidly at first, allowing his notes to fall right into Blade's fills before moving toward the blues even as the horns continue their leisurely, melodic restatement before they, too, move into warmly abstract space. Taborn's deft, imaginative soloing on "Equality at All Levels" is matched only by the one he provides on the opener. On "Terrorists and Movie Stars" he builds solid, large-scale, block chord foundations for Binney and Potter to move off road and go straight at one another with abandon. Parlato's vocal on "Home" commences as an aching, restrained paean to longing. Taborn's piano gives her just enough support, laying out sparse chords that provide a gateway for her to gradually emerge from the shadow of her lyrics and into purely and poetically expressive vocalizing. Blade's sublime cymbal work offers a gentle pulse that creates a shelf under her, before Binney's alto enters to twin with her soaring voice. The emotion and musicality match tenderness to the transcendent. "Waking to Waves" with Nina Geiger's harmony vocal, slips from the gate as a a quiet abstraction, but becomes a shape-shifting jazz art song with excellent voicings by Krantz on acoustic guitar and Akinmusire's solo. Ultimately, the enormous palette of moods, ensemble shapes, and exchanges on Graylen Epicenter, and the sheer, sophisticated inspiration of Binney's written material move this album further into his own jazz sound world than anything he's recorded before. This is one of 2011's finest offerings.

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