Jason Rigby Detroit-Cleveland Trio, ONE (Fresh Sound New Talent)
The simplicity of the Rigby Trio’s cover design matches the uncomplicated instrumentation—saxophone, bass and drums. It is a configuration used to great effect by Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman in classic recordings when they were at the height of their powers. Whether the 42-year-old Rigby has reached that stage in his career remains to be heard, but in this 2016 album he affirms his skill as an improviser on tenor and soprano saxes. Indeed, although he wrote five pieces for the album, they are springboards for his explorations and those of bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Gerald Cleaver and do not disclose the sophistication of his arranging in earlier albums like Translucent Space and The Sage. They impart Rigby’s unflagging energy as a soloist and the symbiotic relationships he has developed with Brown and Cleaver. The opening “Dive Bar,” as an example, is a gripping conversation between Rigby’s tenor and Cleaver’s drums. Rigby uses the standards “You Are Too Beautiful” and “Embraceable You” primarily as bases for unfettered improvisation that includes occasional short, often witty, quotes from the songs. The album title suggests that there may be more of this trio on the way. It will be interesting to hear what’s next.
Yelena Eckemoff, In The Shadow of a Cloud (L&H)
Cleaver joins pianist Yelena Eckemoff in this impressive two-CD album of original compositions. Now a New Yorker, the Russian-born Eckemoff includes, along with Cleaver on drums, three more of the city’s most prominent jazz artists; saxophonist/flutist Chris Potter, guitarist Adam Rogers and bassist Drew Gress. As in Blooming Tall Phlox earlier in 2017 and several other albums on her L&H label, Eckemoff’s classical training is apparent in her playing and in the impeccable construction of compositions recalling her life and family in Russia. Her continuing collaborations with leading American and European musicians reflect her status in the jazz community. That was as true of the acceptance and enthusiasm of the four young Finns who joined her for Blooming Tall Phlox as it is for the US stars of this new Eckemoff venture. Among the highlights are the evocative title tune with its melding of nostalgia and urgency, the unrepressed excitement of “On the Motorboat,” Potter’s floating soprano saxophone in the irresistible “Waltz of the Yellow Petals,” and “The Fog,” in which Gress’s bass line buoys a feeling that manages to be at once mysterious and reassuring. Throughout, Eckemoff’s impeccable keyboard touch, harmonic resourcefulness and intriguing compositions make In the Shadow of a Cloud an important addition to the discography of a pianist whose reputation continues to expand.