Bassist Matt Penman makes his debut as a leader with this vivid, reflective quintet session, featuring Kurt Rosenwinkel on guitar, Aaron Goldberg on piano and Rhodes, Chris Cheek on tenor and soprano saxes, and Jeff Ballard on drums. Mood-wise, The Unquiet isn't unlike Chris Cheek's beautiful album Vine, which features the same instrumentation and even three of the same players -- Rosenwinkel, Cheek, and Penman himself. A modest leader, Penman plays a supportive rhythm section role on these eight fine originals, locking in with Ballard and letting the esteemed soloists do their thing. Cheek and Rosenwinkel state most of the melodies in unison, their tones (respectively dry and echo-drenched) providing rich timbral contrast. Goldberg shines on piano, particularly on the fiercely swinging "Up and Over" and "Sense of Stealth"; he can make the Rhodes sound as gentle as a celeste, particularly under Penman's solo (the only one of the set) on "Treehugger." Penman seems to gravitate toward triple meters; his crafty writing is exemplified by the enigmatic, block-chord intro to the waltz "Keepsake," or the soaring rubato harmonies of "In Piece," which eventually glide into a gentle 6/8, then quietly drift off.
AllMusic Review by David R. Adler