Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Max Johnson, In the West
An auspicious one. The bassist Max Johnson has been getting more and more attention for his appearances as a top tier avant jazz bassist and a bandleader. In the West (Clean Feed 439) is in a way the culmination of his presence thus far. What we have is an excellent quartet of players at the pinnacle of the New York scene, playing mostly Johnson compositions. The framework is thoughtful, the players realizations central.
Max of course is the bassist for the date. His playing has catapulted him into one of the busier bassists on the scene and this album shows you why. His open-field playing shows a superior sense of note choice, timbral richness and an all-encompassing drive. And he in a way is ever soloing, in the sense that it all has an outstanding presence. His rhythm teammate Mike Pride on the drums shows himself as always a smart. flexible artist who drums as musically as anybody these days.
Susan Alcorn makes of the pedal steel guitar a timbrally rich, notefully central front-line force. There is always a close rapport with what she does and what else is going on at any given time. Kris Davis has become one of my favorite pianists in the avant jazz fold. She does all the right things in a very pianistic way. No note is wasted and no opportunity to contribute squandered. Listen to what she does here and you may not be able NOT to smile.
So there we are. In the West is no doubt Max Johnson at his very best to date. The quartet is excellent and there is edge-to-edge relevance.
Hear this one by all means.