Saturday, October 19, 2013

Review: Overdue Ovation - Adam Larson

Adam Larson: tenor and soprano saxophones; Jay Anderson: bass; Gabe Medd: trumpet; Can Olgun: piano; Rodney Green: drums.

The recording begins with “This as Well,” having a cheerful bop theme played at upper mid-tempo by trumpet and tenor sax in unison.  Larson then solos, skillfully gliding through the changes, occasionally swooping effortlessly into the altissimo.  Anderson then solos on bass, his maturity and experience shining through in his lyrical, nothing-to-prove approach.  Olgun then contributes a skillful piano solo, a nice Brad Mehldau-ish twist on bop piano style.  This is a very straightforward start to Larson’s sophomore recording effort.

“Indemnification Blues” has a Jazz Messenger’s type theme taken at a mid-tempo.  Medd plays a solo with clean, flowing lines, which are more pronounced as Olgun lays out.  Larson then plays a smart solo with a few off-center phrases adding some spice.  Then Olgun solos, spinning out thoughtful lines, getting priceless support from Green and Anderson.  Green then solos, displaying great control and a light touch.  Trumpet and tenor play the theme again, nicely harmonized, to close the cut.   

“Overdue Ovation” is a mid-tempo jazz waltz.  Larson plays the delicate, slightly bittersweet theme on soprano, though Medd joins him effectively for the latter half.  Larson then plays one of his best solos on the recording, employing a lot of rhythmic and tonal variety and more aggressiveness and soulfulness in his phrases.  Olgun also excels in his sparkling, well-constructed solo.  Medd then displays good pacing in his solo.  The whole group seems at home here and clearly asserts its identity.

The group then takes on the standard “Remember” (notably played on Hank Mobley’s classic Soul Station) at a swinging mid-tempo.  Larson (on tenor) and Medd trade four bars of the theme, and then trumpet, tenor, piano, and bass all play solid solos.  Then Larson, Medd, and Olgun trade fours with Green.

“Too Much Too Soon” is a mid-tempo, hard bop tune with a tinge of Latin rhythm.  Larson plays a fleet, gossamer tenor solo that skips over the rhythm background.  Then Medd plays a Freddie Hubbard-ish solo and Olgun contributes his own solid solo.  After a repeat of the theme, Green takes over with an energetic solo over a bass and piano ostinato, and the cut fades out on him.

“Prinzenpark” has a pretty, swinging, mid-tempo theme played by trumpet and tenor in unison.  Olgun then plays a lyrical but somewhat meandering solo.  Larson’s tenor solo starts with some up and down glissandi and stays thoughtful and imaginative throughout.  Then Green solos against a piano and bass ostinato and the cut closes on a repeated trumpet and tenor phrase.

“Without” is a pretty, mid-tempo, ¾ time ballad that Larson starts out soulfully on tenor.  Then Medd plays the bridge, and the two finish the theme in unison.  Olgun then solos with graceful, long lines that contain a touch of mystery.  Anderson virtually sings a song in his lyrical solo.  Then Larson solos with a light and playful touch.

The recording ends with “Layers,” with Larson and Medd in unison on a straightforward, upper mid-tempo theme.  Larson, Medd, and Green play solid solos, with Green sharp and energetic throughout.

Overdue Ovation is a sterling example of well-played jazz, but, except for the title cut, the proceedings generally don’t seize one’s attention.  The recording is more in the bop and swing arenas than Larson’s previous recording Simple Beauty and doesn’t really do anything new or surprising with these genres.  The music has a retro feel that doesn’t seem to fully engage the players, especially by comparison to Simple Beauty, which felt more fresh and exploratory.  Overdue Ovation is a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end, but I hope that in his next recording Larson returns to the post-bop that seems to engage more intensely his spirit and formidable abilities.

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