The fourth album from Matt Jorgensen's 451 group continues the line of somewhat traditional modern jazz (if that can be considered a proper name for the style) with a definite forward-thinking aspect built in. The album introduces itself with a groove-laden (and aptly named) "Slinky," powered in part by Phil Sparks' powerful bass, before moving into an interesting cover of a Coldplay song. The first part of the "Hope" series (a trio of title tracks) is a much more ethereal work, making use of some violin riffing and a good bit of synth work. It's certainly off the beaten path from what precedes it. Matt Otto's "Che" has a somewhat more pensive feel, but the energy is released via some lengthy soloing by Mark Taylor and Rob Davis on their respective saxes. "Pack Sack," the first of a trio of Jorgensen originals in a row, is a very hot number, letting the quartet bask in their own speed and strength. "Peacefulness" heads back toward the sparseness and ethereal mood of the earlier "Hope" installment, but with a heavier emphasis on the sax here. Using "Peacefulness" as a nice lead-in reminder of the previous installment, the second installment of "Hope" (actually the third installment, as they're presented intentionally out of order) returns the violin and synths, but fills in the sparseness with a heavier, subtly Bo Diddley-esque beat throughout thanks to Jorgensen. "Sanguine," an original from saxophonist Taylor, is a more relaxed outing with the quartet, but with a somewhat passionate (rather fitting for the title) atmosphere hidden inside. Pianist Ryan Burns also gets a nice shot at displaying his prowess here. A rendition of Mingus' "Fables of Faubus" makes for an interesting mix, but more importantly perhaps shows off the ability of the bandmembers to work together in unusual ways, playing off one another in a manner completely different from the rest of the album. "Ibrahymn" goes back to the relaxed state of the earlier "Sanguine" with a similar passion, but a little more rhythm perhaps. The album ends on the middle section of the "Hope" trilogy, back to the spacy-sparse arrangements of violin, synths, and sax, as well as a nice tambura drone. As one would expect, this one sits firmly between the emptiness of "Pt. 1" and the driving drums of "Pt. 3," with something of both within, but yet something original in its improvisation -- a nice way to sum up the album. For a clump of artists out of the jazz spotlight's focus, this is an altogether outstanding piece of work -- a little something for everyone, but a lot of solid modern jazz for all.
by Adam Greenberg