Eight recordings deep into his solo career, Rick Margitza has become a firm believer in the power of music to emotionally document the joys, sorrows and in between times of his life. The tenorman Jazz Times once called "one of contemporary music's most important saxophonist" stays true to his heart on his moodswinging Palmetto Records debut, offering wistful impressions -- some melancholy, some happily reflective, always melodic, swinging both hard and subtle -- in the wake of a difficult breakup of a recent relationship. The cover art alone is priceless -- a woman's shoe about to stomp a toy truck, Margitza on the back holding the pieces -- but the music is the truer conveyor of an intensely personal journey back to the light. Margitza, who has worked over the years with some of jazz's top performers -- from legends like Miles Davis to popular young lions like Joey Calderazzo -- brings together yet another amazing quartet: pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Scott Colley (who played on the saxophonist's previous album, Heart of Hearts), and drummer Brian Blade, best known for his work with Wayne Shorter and Joni Mitchell. Each track of Memento is reflective of the many different emotions of a relationship, from the highest joys of the promise of forever to the sorrow over the dashed dream. "Touch" opens with Miller's moody piano, then eases into a gently percussive blues flavor before opening up to a full, excitable swing with plenty of feisty sax improvisation. Margitza swings more gently over the rolling basslines of "Blue for You," then waxes a bit melancholy on the ironically titled "Witches," which features exotic soundscaping and playful drum swells. "Spin" is all smoky late-night romance, which leads into the poignant title ballad about the beautiful memories that remain. "Kiss & Tell" has a seductive Brazilian percussion pattern beneath Margitza's soulful melody and then Miller's eloquent piano improvisations. "Unembraceable" shifts moods from the wild piano runs at the start to some of Margitza's warmest, most intimate tones later, while "Points to Ponder" does likewise, opening as a graceful ballad before breaking for a rolling drumbeat sequence midway through; it concludes as a brooding, percussive jam featuring an impossibly quick piano and bass duet.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran