CD Review: David Binney

Graylen Epicenter

Reviewed by JJ Wheeler

Some records speak volumes before you can even press play. Turn over David Binney’s latest release and you’ll find a list of New York’s most in-demand musicians, including Craig Taborn, Chris Potter, Brian Blade, Eivind Opsvik and Wayne Krantz.

It comes as no surprise, then, that what results is a set of forward-thinking, complex yet surprisingly inclusive tunes. Binney achieves a mixture of complexity and accessibility through combining tricky rhythmic figures and long-winding harmonic structures with folkloric melodies, highly singable and immediately engaging.

With two deeply contrasting drummers (the aforementioned Blade and rhythmic monster, Dan Weiss), the record opens at a ferocious pace, with extended exchanges between the pair over what, to the untrained ear, may sound like a broken record. However, this is the only time we find the two sparring, as most of the record is either spent with them gently complementing each other superbly (Weiss often playing a rhythmic role whilst Blade caresses the drums in a more melodic fashion) or with Blade taking the sole drum kit duties.

For me, this is one of those albums that simply gets better the further in you get (which can be some mean feat, being well over an hour in length). This may be due to a need for time to let the ear adjust, or maybe Binney was being particularly clever in rewarding the listener for their willingness to listen through the whole record. Whatever the reasoning, this album really kicks in from the fourth track, Everglow (over 30 minutes in!).

David Binney

It is of no consequence that this is the point from which my two standout, although maybe lesser-known musicians, of this record begin to feature more heavily. The first is Gretchen Parlato, whose vocal input adds colour, strong yet subtle on the more upbeat numbers, such as the highly intriguing From This Far, soft and melancholic, creating a beauty rarely bestowed upon such a record within the aforementioned Everglow and particularly on the third recorded outing of Home.

The other star on this record for me is trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. I was fortunate enough to encounter Ambrose’s playing both in a workshop and in concert with John Escreet in Birmingham a couple of years ago, by which time he was already excelling. This record gives me firm confidence that the multi-award winning trumpeter is going to hit new marks on the landscape of jazz. His razor-sharp tone, followed by a highly virtuosic yet complimentary style of improvisation lifts both Any Years Costume and Waking To Waves, with the bandleader allowing the young trumpeter to close the record with dramatic climax. Maybe a sign that Binney recognises this too?

I think we have an early contender for Album of the Year, 2011. Binney fans will definitely not be disappointed upon receipt of this next chapter in a long line of discography from the now iconic underground giant (in musical terms, if not stature) from New York.

Categories: CD review

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