The Time Verses
This is Binney’s eighth date out in front – and the alt-saxophonist and composer here again captures the quartet he most frequently works with for some New York City jazz; a slick, lovely quartet record that alternates between lithe, loping balladry and more frenetic pieces. Though this band plays together so well, so intuitively, it’s the first time they’ve all made it into the studio in this configuration to play Binney’s charts in over a half-decade. Pianist Jacob Saints is at home sitting underneath Binney, providing the stateliness, the melodic framework, and the engine room features the magnificent Dan Weiss on drums and bassist Eivind Opsvik. Both are so good at either sitting back, relaxing, always playing just what is needed – and both are able, together and alone, to knit themselves into a tight space and then burst back out in the most in-tune, attuned and intuitive way.
So on lengthy workouts, be they ballads (Strange Animal) or old fashioned blowers (Walk) the build is all there within and around the rhythm section; Walk ambles along at first, but it’s basically running to catch its Trane-like ending, touching on Kamasi Washington’s feels and flavours, as Weiss rides the cymbals relentlessly.
It’s a long, curated ride too. Themed, made-as-an-album rather than just a set of wildly great playing. Arc – the third song down – is where the record’s shape is announced, where we can feel and hear the form, a channelling of the collective spirit/s. It’s also a track where Binney plays a knockout solo, there are plenty of great lines and note-flurries from him all over the record but this one is just beautiful and HUGE.
Elsewhere the tempo drops right down and the lines from the horn take on another set of shapes, on Seen we can hear the influence of Uri Caine (whom Binney has sided for) and there are these wonderful – intense, but pretty – moments that recall some of the Arve Henriksen and Arvo Part ideas where jazz is only ever in the corner of the mind. Of course in that Corner you’ve got Weiss, Opsvik and Saints, so these stretched canvases always get final brushstrokes from the post-bop world.
The nocturnal Time Takes It’s Return is a showcase for Saints, Binney flutters overhead, sure, but it’s the dramatic phrasing of the pianist, first. And then it’s the charismatic drive of Opsvik.
Binney knows how to give these guys their moments whilst still showing off all his great playing skills. They all know how to sit back and let the tune take its shape too. No one here is crowded the kitchen. All master chefs too.
It’s a good set – long but with enough in the way of surprises and shape-shifts to keep any jazzer interested.