Theo Travis

Heart of the Sun

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If there were a jazz stylistic category called "mysterious," that would be a good place to slot this album by U.S. composer/saxophonist Theo Travis. Not that his works are uncomprehensible. It's just that sometimes they are not what they seem to be. "That Old Smile" is not a musical image of a nice person with a pleasant, "you can trust me" smile. The tune starts out like that, with the Travis' sax and David Gordon's piano carrying the major thematic load. Then it turns dissonant altering the grin making it a dangerous enticement. "Northern Lights," with Swedish trumpet icon and Travis guest, Palle Mikkelborg working in and around the middle register, recalling Miles Davis modal music period. The titles of Travis tunes are like a small guessing game. His "Bass Rock" has nothing to do with rock music. What it describes is the steadfastness (for more than 16 minutes) of Stefan Weeke's bass supporting Travis' meandering tenor sax as he moves from one cadence to another. Like his last album for the 33Jazz label, Travis includes one tune not written by him. This time it's a standard "Here's That Rainy Day," staying within the rather murky framework the leader has established for this session. The track starts with the sound of rain as David Gordon's tinkling piano makes one want to reach for the umbrella. Both Travis and Mikkelborg, this time on flugelhorn, are understated providing a wide view of the musical landscape. Travis' sax takes something from Stan Getz, Ernie Waits, and John Coltrane to form the underpinnings for his unique sound. This album is filled with rich, intense harmonics, interesting original works, and excellent playing, and is highly recommended.

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