Matt Bauder and Day in Pictures – Nightshades (CF 289)
Nightshades is the most accessible offering to date in Brooklyn-based tenor saxophonist Matt Bauder’s burgeoning discography. Brimming with nostalgic melodies, rich harmonies and elastic rhythms, the highly appealing session shares more than a passing resemblance to classic records issued by Blue Note in the 1960s, recalling a time when jazz still reigned as the popular music of the day.
Following in the footsteps of the group’s 2010 self-titled Clean Feed debut, Bauder’s Day in Pictures continues to explore intricate structural nuances of the post-bop continuum, hemming ever closer to conventional forms. Enjoying the support of a fairly stable lineup, Bauder is once again joined by trumpeter Nate Wooley, bassist Jason Ajemian and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, while pianist Kris Davis takes the place of Angelica Sanchez. Davis’ appearance is noteworthy; where Sanchez brought a penchant for expansive contrapuntal harmony to the group, Davis takes a more focused, linear approach, offering a profusion of melodic invention in her brisk, chromatic delivery.
Davis’ quicksilver pianism meshes well with Ajemian’s supple bass lines and Fujiwara’s spirited kit-work; their skillful interplay yields a modulating undercurrent of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic activity that inspires daring excursions from the versatile frontline. As one of the key young masters of new trumpet technique, Wooley makes a fitting foil for the leader, underscoring Bauder’s sinuous refrains with coruscating asides tempered by an increasingly sophisticated lyricism. Bauder reveals a diverse array of expressionism, whether waxing romantic on the lush ballad “Starr Wykoff,” swinging with full-throated verve through the second line-infused title track, or plying nervy multiphonics on more assertive fare like “Rule of Thirds.”
Although the material on Nightshades is stylistically similar to the quintet’s previous effort, each tune investigates slightly different territory, ranging from the slinky deconstructed bossa nova groove of “Octavia Minor” to the collective New Thing-inspired rapture of “August and Counting.” The duration of each piece hovers around the ten minute mark, allowing individual members time to extrapolate on Bauder’s melody-rich themes.
In direct contrast to some of his more experimental projects, like Memorize The Sky, the material performed by Day in Pictures highlights Bauder’s most conventionally jazz-oriented writing. The end result is a historically aware exploration of the tenuous divide between freedom and form – a bold, but beautiful album.