Sometimes the right combination comes together at the right time and the stars align. In the case of jazz recordings, success depends on the right songs, personnel, recording qualities, etc... Origin Records must be living a charmed life because their luck with Chicago artists has been exceptional. Most likely it is hard work and good decisions, but for whatever reason, recent releases from artists like the Kelly Brand Sextet and Matt Ulery's Loom have been outstanding. And the beat goes on with "Urban Nomad" by saxophonist Geof Bradfield, which features strong playing and compositions and great group interplay gracing another exceptional Origin release.
Bradfield is an exciting player in the 1950s' Coltrane mode, who is not content with spitting out strings of clichéd lines, but rather takes chances, with rewarding results. Here, he is supported by an excellent cast of musicians: pianist Ron Perillo, drummer George Fludas and bassist Clark Sommers. There is a heightened sense of energy involved here and it is readily apparent that the musicians involved weren’t satisfied with going through the motions, but rather sought to push each other to greater heights.
The mysterious and romantic title track feature some hot soprano sax (listen for the "Love Supreme" reference) and is followed by the a fiery "Janus Groove" that starts things off burning hot, nearly scorching the listener with the abundance of sparks the musicians are shooting off. "Ever Ever Land" offers some respite, but although melodic still contains a plethora of combustible moments. Perillo continues to shine as one of the most popular and in-demand young keyboardists in the city, while Sommers and Fludas are muscular without being disruptive. For fans of classic '50s saxophone sounds with a modern feel, this album will leave you buzzed.
"I Carry Your Heart With Me" reveals Bradfield's tender way with a ballad. From his full-bodied tenor tone to the superb pacing to the lack of any wasted notes, this is simply an amazing performance. And again the compositional strengths speak to the talent and maturity of this young composer. A cover of Harry Warren's "You're My Everything," as well as Thad Jones's "Kids Are Pretty People" and Dizzy Gillespie ("Con Alma") provides some hints to Bradfield’s influences, and he again burns it up on the soprano sax on the former for good measure. Again kudos must be given to Perillo, whose piano work simply shimmers and the Fludas/Sommers rhythm juggernaut.
The waltzing "Twirl" and Giant-Step-ish burner "Chin Check" round out this great collection that should be acquired by any fans of the jazz saxophone. I know I am having trouble prying it out of my CD player to move on to another CD to review. Thanks a lot, Geof!