Jazz CD Reviews
Glenn White – Sacred Machines – OA2 Records
Published on August 1, 2008
(Glenn White – Tenor sax; Roberta Piket – piano, Rhodes; Jamie Baum – flute, alto flute; Gary Wang – bass; Jeff Hirshfield – drums; Patrick Hay – guitar)
It’s not surprising that Glenn White operates in the same distinct jazz world as Dave Binney. After all, Binney produced this excellent debut—if you don’t count the self-produced 1999 disc, Downside. Like Binney, White is as accomplished a composer and band leader as saxophonist. Like Binney, White has a similar approach to composition: strong, long-limbed, complex yet accessible melodic elements wrapped in very modern harmonic conceptions and rhythmic diversity. Like Binney, White’s solo approach strives for statements firmly rooted in a clearly established musical setting rather than virtuoso flights of fancy derived from simplistic materials. Like Binney, White favors interesting front line associations and vaguely Hispanic/Oriental-tinged interactions, here between his probing tenor and the evocative flute of Jamie Baum.
Perhaps most like Binney, there’s an inquisitive, questioning aesthetic at work here. No easy answers for White. Instead, we’re on a journey, one that sometimes traverses alien terrain, one that has its edgy, adventurous passages, but one that never is less than compelling, and one that usually arrives if not at home then at least in familiar territory.
The band, Sacred Machines—apparently a working unit—is a marvel. Pianist Piket plays with a studied abandon. That is to say, she’s completely familiar with the entire history of jazz piano which she translates into a comfortably post-modern attitude entirely apposite for the compositional approach that White favors. What a gift to casually evoke everyone from Jelly Roll Morton to Stanley Cowell and all that comes between! Jamie Baum is one of the most accomplished jazz flutists of her generation. What sets her apart is the beauty of her tone combined with what I can only call a weightiness—like a baseball pitcher who throws a “heavy” fastball that makes it almost unhittable. Think gravitas, not overbearing. Jeff Hirshfield has a long and distinguished resume. He’s played with scores of jazz greats, everyone from John Abercrombe to John Zorn. Thus he also intuitively operates within whatever jazz sensibility governs the moment. Gary Wang on bass fits in perfectly with the band’s free-wheeling-yet-rooted-in-tradition feel.
If Glenn White can keep producing discs of this quality, he is assured a long and productive career in the world of jazz.
TrackList: Sacred Machines, Split Infinity, Triality, Washington Heights, Phobia, Wish, Aftermath
– Jan P. Dennis