Yoni Kretzmer — Five (OutNow, 2016)
But it’s nice to hear him in a good old free jazz format. With Five, he’s assembled an all-star quintet that delivers brisk, exciting music across five tracks.
A taste of ’60s influence runs throughout the compositions. “Quintet I” launches you right into it, as drummer Chad Taylor and bassist Max Johnson kick off a fast-patter attack, quickly followed by a pulsing lead line from the horns. From there, it’s off to the races, with solos backed by bits of composed riffs and long passages of Johnson and Taylor delivering the heat.
Most of the compositions consist of a few riffs played as demarcation points that define a mood and a context, but the rest is left to the players, a nicely brewing stew of improvisation.Kretzmer himself is in fine form, with blazing, burning solos full of expression and variety. He’s an expert storyteller on his horn — tenor sax throughout this album. And he’s recruited top-notch bandmates in Steve Swell (trombone) and Thomas Heberer (cornet).
“Feb 23” is another quick-paced study: Kretzmer dealing a raspy, buzzing solo over Taylor and Johnson, the brass entering with a sneaky, simple whisper and a nod to spy jazz. It also includes a nice mental break, with the two brass horns and Johnson scribbling happily, occasionally accented by small sounds from Taylor. That leads into a Johnson solo and a serious, surging, slowish theme for a big, big ending.
Rounding out the five tracks: “July 19” opens the album with nearly five (!) minutes of criss-crossed group improvising. “Quintet II” starts with a quiet experimental crouch before launching into a boisterous free-jazz tumult. The theme comes at the end, a playfully halting back-and-forth swing.
And “For DC” ends the album with a slow, ritualistic composition, against which Kretzmer monologues fiercely. Swell’s trombone solo, late in the piece, plays up the drama — a big climactic scene before the piece winds down.
I’m particularly taken by Kretzmer’s solo in “Quintet II.” He’s pumped full of energy and builds up to an appropriately dramatic ending. You also get a little bit of a feel for the quintet’s full interaction. Have a listen.