Brooke Sofferman

Modesty's Odyssey

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A promising debut by gifted drummer Brooke Sofferman, this is a disk of freewheeling, accessible modern jazz, an intriguing mélange of styles, more hits than misses, and lots and lots of chops. Sparked by the wiry sax of Jerry Bergonzi, Sofferman explores odd time signatures (the prickly "Beef Ellington," the quirkier "Shaodare"), unorthodox voicings ("Dry Season," an austere, pretty tune featuring vocalist Abby Aronson) and dry funk ("Now," a showcase for bassist Thomson Kneeland). Not all the experiments work: "Autumn's Lullaby" skirts the maudlin, and "I Hear Mousie," despite crisp Bergonzi and sharp Sofferman, is generic post-bop. Nevertheless, as the many food-related titles indicate, there's meat here: Sofferman circles the beat with zest and bite, Bergonzi works his lines hard and guitarist Norm Zocher, when he strays from John Scofield's shadow, is a liquid, inventive improviser. This Boston-generated, Boston-heavy CD comes replete with influences: Sofferman acknowledges his indebtedness to Dave Holland and Wayne Shorter, Bergonzi's tone evokes Coltrane (as does the vamp on "I Hear Mousie"); "Steak and Eggs," despite semi-hip lyrics, indebtedness to Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, and Aronson's valiant vocalese, will never make it into Manhattan Transfer's repertoire. Still, Sofferman clearly knows how to drive a group, his style is deft and contemporary and his compositions are largely witty and involving.

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