"Assemble/Melancholy", the first track, does just that. Four instruments have bits and pieces to say, somewhat fragmentary, with already some ingredients of storytelling, and gradually a kind of boppish rhythm emerges, and so the four instruments start getting aligned in the same direction, somewhat melancholy.
The joy is offered to you by Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, Alexander Hawkins on piano, Dominic Lash on bass and Harris Eisenstadt on drums, four stellar musicians who've been playing together for a number of years now. And the music on this album is sheer joy, offering the listener shifting perspectives on music and its basic material - sound - to create some form of coherence (convergence?) that in its extremes range from Keith Jarrett to Anthony Braxton and beyond, from melodic lyricism to abstract free improvisation.
Simon H. Fell captures it well in the liner notes of the quartet's first CD, "Live In Oxford" : "The several compositional strategies seem to range from the inscrutable to being perhaps too easily scrutable, and the resulting music includes moments of the sublime, the awkward and the deeply puzzling. At the end of the record, you may even be tempted to ask yourself ‘what was that all about?’" True, this recipe is not new, but the quartet applies it to perfection, playing with the compositions, tossing them around, slowing down rhythms, accelerating, adding shades and seemingly losing threads while at the same time keeping a good ear to the total sound and the direction it all takes.
I will not review each track, but the variety and wealth of material you get is absolutely phenomenal, with twists and turns, from slow to fast-paced moments, rhythmic intricacies and great adventurous escapades. And it sounds great, and rich.
The title piece "Slow And Steady" is an Eisenstadt composition with one of the most beautiful themes I've heard in a while - it also features on "Canada Day III" - with odd-metered accompaniment of the rhythm section. A great and sad closing for a fantastic album, one that you will want to listen to many times, as I've been doing for the past month.
Can be purchased from instantjazz.com.