So today there is some open neo-contemporary jazz from tenorist Chris Clark and his quintet, Cedar Wisely (Songlines 1599-2). Chris is a very inventive player with much to say, with a very nicely fluid chromatic improvisational stance. His tenor sound has the post-Shorter-Trane hard purity with harmonic overtones at expressive points of phrases. He writes music for the sextet that challenges the band to get into things yet also stands upright as substantial in itself.
The band is very good. Peter Epstein's alto and soprano nicely complement and spell Clark's tenor, giving a contrastive second horn that fills out the front line well. David Ake at the piano is a subtle ensemble player and a sort of post-Bleyian-Corean-Hancockian-Jarrettian, thoughtful soloist. Zack Teran on contrabass has a tightly wound looseness in tandem with drummer Jesus Vega yet also solos with authority. Vega is deceptively disarming in his matter-of-factness, yet there is a Motian-like instinctive and deliberate rightness to what he does.
Cedar Wisely satisfies. It does not get overtly in-your-face as much as it gives smart and inventive expression to the musical thoughts of the participants. And perhaps jazz should always have something of that. Not the sound of surprise as much as the sound of humanity speaking freely and eloquently. That's what Clark and company are doing.
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