In its admirable quest to issue fine recordings regardless of genre or outward commercial appeal, Nonesuch Records has released a live disc of the exciting, cross-generational SF Jazz Collective. This self-titled set is taken from a triple-CD collection available only through its website. The band is a who's who of jazz talent, and includes the venerable vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, saxophonists Joshua Redman (the group's artistic director), and Miguel Zenón, drummer Brian Blade, pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Robert Hurst and trombonist Josh Roseman, with arrangements by Gil Goldstein. The group picks the work of a jazz composer's top study every year, and for 2004 it was Ornette Coleman. There are three of his compositions on this release, along with works by bandmembers. The Coleman tunes are revelatory with brilliant work by the two saxophonists. The ensemble is tight, focused, and swings hard. "Peace" is a knotty tune with many twists and turns in its head, it is flawless and inspired. Rosnes does a fine job of piloting the band through the work which wasn't scored with a piano in mind. And in the soloing there is no ego-tripping -- the tune and the band are served. Likewise with the gorgeous "Una Muy Bonita," with its staggered rhythms and bright melodic frame. Hurst's bassing here is the engine, nurturing the rhythm along seamlessly as the front-line players sift and sing through the changes. The interplay between Payton and Zenón is delightful. The originals may not be as memorable as Coleman's, but all are notable. Zenón's "Lingala" opens the set in a minor key head of vibes and Payton's elegiac trumpet before the tune breaks open into virtual song. The bluesy Eastern mode of Redman's "Rise and Fall" with its long, spacious line is just lovely, as is Rosnes' complex, lilting "Of This Day's Journey," with a beautifully tender and empathic solo by Hutcherson. The vibist's playful yet dramatic "March Madness" closes out this disc. It's tensile, quiet opening is turned upside-down a minute in as Hurst begins strutting out front before the front line answers in harmonic counterpoint. Payton's solo, with its taste, fire and supreme melodic sense, is the high point of the tune. This is as impressive a debut as we've heard in recent years, by a band who not only play like one, but who respect the jazz tradition enough to actually extend it with creativity, vision, and sensitivity in the current millennium.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek