David Binney
Third Occasion

David Binney Third Occasion

Review by Brad Walseth

Binney is back with a new recording showcasing the alto saxophonist's brilliant playing and exceptional compositional skills and all jazz fans should be rejoicing. This time he is aided by some of his usual cohorts, Craig Taborn on acoustic piano, Scott Colley on acoustic bass and Brain Blade on drums. But, never content to rest on his laurels, Binney has challenged himself by writing for a brass section that includes trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpeter/flugelhornist Brad Mason, and trombonists Corey King and Andy Hunter. The result is music that is complex, but not sterile, experimental, but melodic. Binney continues to push himself to reach new horizons while creating some of the most interesting and enthralling music on the modern jazz scene.

Third Occasion opens in breathtaking fashion, with the classically charged brass section introduction "Introducao," before moving into the ultra modern sounds of the title track. Taborn and Colley maintain the integrity of the structure, with Blade perfectly in his element here, providing a wide sonic palette of rhythmic timbres. Taborn solos beautifully, and Binney's alto dances in chill-inducing patterns around the center. I can think of no other alto saxophonist out there who so consistently surprises and amazes as Binney does. You cannot pick up a recording with him playing on it and not come away with at least a few instances where the jaw hits the floor. A great example occurs on this song, when Binney reaches his climax and the brass section enters on this song. This is yet another example of why the young saxophonist is not only one of the most energetic, yet thoughtful players alive today, but also one of the great modern composers in jazz. And -- something to be positive about regarding the state of modern jazz -- he is getting better.

"This Naked Sunday" suits its title with a composition that is reflective and full of spiritual depth, without any semblance of the maudlin. The gorgeous brass arrangement shimmers. Binney employs the similar churning rhythmic approach of past efforts like 2006's "Cities and Desire" (see our review here) on the highly satisfying "Squares and Palaces." The group interplay here is first rate -- these players have played so much together over the years that they function almost as one body, staying within the structure, while also improvising with sheer abandon. Colley and Taborn add intelligent and dynamic lines; Blade again is a propulsive dynamo, while Binney shreds. Binney continues to expand his vision and build upon exploring the already impressive directions he has taken in the past, and it is a path well worth continuing on for the musical treasures he is unearthing. One of the best compositions I've heard so far this year.

Binney's solo on "Solo" is another marvel, showing the fluidity and creative genius of the player in an all-too-brief foray. But that's ok, because Binney and the band kick into the haunting "Here is All the Love I Have" -- a truly post-modern ballad for the new millenium. Colley performs a lovely extended solo showcasing his rich woody tone, over Taborn and Blade at their most sensitive, and Binney sings and cries with his sax as the brass swells. Another fantastic composition.

The brass shines on "Explaining What's Hidden," another great composition and thoughtful arrangement with stellar work by all involved, featuring another almost unbelievable solo from Binney. His technique is amazing enough, but combined with his creativity... Taborn, perhaps more appreciated for his electric keyboard work, proves again that he is an imaginative force on the acoustic piano here, as well as on the epic "Blood of Cities," which may be one of the most melodic Binney compositions yet. Again the brass, when they appear 2/3rd of the way through provide additional layers to Binney's already intertwined frameworks. The end comes with "End," the brass reprising the introductory theme.

An exemplary recording showing a great deal of care, intelligence and artistic originality by one of the most original and important jazz artists today.

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