Chris Jonas / Sun Spits Cherries

The Vermilion

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Chris Jonas seems to keep getting better and better with every recording. For this one, he adds the highly original pianist, Myra Melford, to his group, the Sun Spits Cherries. The results, as to be expected, are thrilling. Jonas is one of the more sophisticated of the young free-style composers at the turn of the century. On the opening tune, "Levee," he suspends time and has Melford focus on single tones. Elsewhere, he uses his unusual instrumental mix of two trombones (Joe Fielder and Chris Washburne), soprano sax (Jonas), plus piano (Melford) and percussion (Andrew Barker) to produce an eclectic mix that confounds the senses. Jonas' roots might be said to come from the compositions of Thelonious Monk, in the sense that the rhythms are quirky, the patterns strangely logical yet off-center, and the music difficult, yet accessible over time: Abstract, yes, but not so much that a sense of center cannot be discerned. Jonas favors lots of activity, but his arrangements are not overly busy. He gives his soloists considerable freedom, dressing them in clouds of oddball designs. So, for example, one of the trombonists might improvise against a raucous display of soprano and trombone, with the piano going off in another direction completely. Jonas enjoys rhythmic nuance and complex diversions that veer in unfamiliar directions, a roller coaster ride always on the verge of disaster that never crashes. Even when the tempos slow, as they do, for example on "Tinfoil Barb," the jagged curves, split tones, and lonely chordal outposts terrify with their existential singularity.

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