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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Saco Yasuma - Another Rain (Leaf Note Productions, 2007) ***

Saco Yasuma is a New-York based saxophonist, who assembles for her debut recording some of free jazz finest musicians, including Roy Campbell on trumpet, Ken Filiano on bass, Andrew Bemkey on keyboards and Michael T.A. Thompson on drums. And with such a band, there aren't many things that can go wrong. "Another Rain" symbolizes "the movement between darkness and light, bitterness and sweet. The same rain cleanses and muddles up, quenches and drowns. The balance is in our hands". The music illustrates this dichotomy quite well, and Yasuma is sufficiently familiar and comfortable with the various idioms of jazz to build these contrasts. Yasuma is a true composer, building the pieces with clearly delineated parts, themes and developments of the themes, adding complexities and functional layers of music (in that way she reminds me a little of Rob Reddy), yet this makes the overall concept too locked in, like sailing on a pond, the end-point is always clear, limiting the surprise element a little. Sure, the musicians get ample opportunity to improvize, and Yasuma is an excellent player herself, but a little more adventure would have made this album even better. The free-est parts, as on the superb "Calm Water" on which Yasuma plays the Xaphoon, a bamboo sax, or the intense "Straight Upward", are in my opinion the best. They contrast a little too much with the more composed parts, with melodies that are a little too sentimental to my taste, to offer the album unity. Golda Solomon recites some poetry on one track, and I'm not a fan of spoken word or poetry in jazz. So, in sum, great musicianship, there nice pieces of music, but overall a little too mellow and reigned in to my taste.

You can download from Music Is Here or from CDBaby.