Recent Listening: Jason Palmer, Rhyme and Reason (GiantStepArts)
In his early work with saxophonists Noah Preminger and Grace Kelly and many others, trumpeter Jason Palmer made it clear with his substantial tone, wide range and flexibility that he had the potential to become one of the new century’s outstanding trumpeters. His debut on producer and photographer Jimmy Katz’s GiantStepArts label, is the latest proof that Palmer has attained that distinction—and then some. Joined by the veteran tenor saxophonist Mark Turner and supported by bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Kendrick Scott, Palmer further establishes that he is also a composer of originality and imagination. So effective are Turner, Palmer and Brewer in the chords department, it is possible a listener will take a few minutes to realize that there is no instrument providing harmonic support. That function is in the interaction among the horns and the bassist, with plenty of rhythmic encouragement from Scott’s urgencies at the drums.
Beautifully engineered and mixed, the album’s sound places Brewer where a bass belongs in this kind of band, in the middle providing stability and a home port for the ear. In the liner notes, Palmer’s track-by-track references to his compositions are occasionally nearly obliterated by white lettering on light backgrounds, but held under a strong lamp they can be read, and they give the listener information about inspirations and relationships. It is valuable, for example, to learn that Palmer’s “Waltz For Diana” has connections to Bill Evans’s “Waltz For Debbie,” Kurt Roswenwinkel’s “Dream Of The Old” and the Diana of ancient mythology. His “Kalispel Bay” is almost certainly the only jazz composition ever inspired by a visit to Priest Lake, Idaho. In addition to the trumpet virtues mentioned in the opening line above, Palmer’s playing here encompasses a spaciousness that seems based in a refusal to let ideas crowd one another. That is a welcome attribute in an era when note-packing often seems the order of the day.