Chris Collins

Urban Solitude

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Detroit-based tenor saxophonist Chris Collins, who has been teaching at Wayne State University and recording and touring with the Phil Collins Big Band (no relation), sports a slightly thin, alto-like sound which is steeped in bop and mindful of contemporaries on this, his second CD. His sound is centered in a group concept with fellow Wayne State professor and unsung piano hero Dennis Tini, Toledo area bassist Ray (son of vaunted multi-instrumentalist Gene) Parker and fine local drummer Dave Taylor. All but one of the eight selections are modern mainstream concepts written by Collins. It's true that there's a neo-bop, Michael Brecker-type influence that creeps into Collins' thought process, evident in the slightly nasty solo during the overt funky blues of "Rural Redemption," or in the Afro-Cuban flavored, modern-jazz original "Chorus for Horace" with hip spiking piano from an inspired Tini tacked onto an intricate 5/4 break displaying some heady writing by the leader. A quirkier Thelonious Monk angularity defines the boppish melody in "Bubba" with a humorous Collins at the helm. A New Orleans shuffle with non-linear, spotty, connect-the-dots line and puckish tenor shades the fun tune "Thanks, You Can Go Now." Also on the impish side is the implied funk and swing of "Sonny-Side Up" where one can clearly hear a more original concept from Collins -- not robust or full as most tenors, but reaching for different timbres. Tini's tender piano introduces the perfectly named title track, with its patient construct of sighing or crying melody lines and improvisational ideas strung together, ad infinitum -- it makes for a moving emotional vehicle for both listener and performer. The one standard, Bill Evans' "Very Early," is a very waltzy, ultra-melodic evergreen with a wisp of hook that seems to appeal to challenged and proper jazz musicians alike. This is a fine example of an artist in development and in transition, maturing rapidly and heading for an artistic breakthrough as a player and composer. It's also a good listen upon repeated playings. Recommended.

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