Jazz CD Reviews

Robin Verheyen – Starbound – Pirouet

With the variety of sounds and compositions on this record, most modern jazz listeners (especially those with a taste for European releases) will find something to enjoy on this record.

Published on February 5, 2010

Robin Verheyen – Starbound – Pirouet

Robin Verheyen – Starbound – Pirouet PIT3043, 54:48, ****:

(Robin Verheyen – soprano and tenor saxophones; Bill Carrothers – piano; Nicolas Thys – bass; Dré Pallemaerts – drums)

Robin Verheyen’s Starbound hits the gates running with “On the House,” a straight-ahead swing tune featuring Bill Carrothers on piano and Verheyen on soprano saxophone.  The two navigate the swinging foundation provided by Nicolas Thys on bass and Dré Pallemaerts on drums with angular lines that almost never land on the notes that one would expect.  This is a common theme for the album – an underlying feel provided by the rhythm section that might sound familiar to the listener that is paired with always-interesting note and phrasing choices from Carrothers and Verheyen.  While Thys and Pallamaerts do a great job in their supportive roles, they are rarely the featured voices.

Compositionally, Verheyen tends to stick to three types of songs on this album.  The first is straight-ahead swing with modern chord changes, such as the playful “Roscopaje.”  Secondly, there is the straight-eighth medium-tempo feel, which will feel familiar to ECM listeners.  “Boechout” is a beautiful example of this.  Thirdly, Verheyen seems to enjoy exploring rubato ballads, allowing him to stretch both harmony and time while letting the listener focus on his complex choices and expressive sound.  Interestingly, unlike many albums featuring this breadth of style in the modern-jazz spectrum, most of the tracks stay below five minutes long, keeping them easily digestible.

Even on the straight-ahead tunes, Verheyen rarely plays a string of eighth notes and tends to stay away from hitting a note squarely on the head without adding some sort of twist.  This approach gives him a unique voice in the saxophone world, especially since he is one of the rare players that tends to gravitate towards soprano instead of tenor; out of the eleven songs on the album, only two feature tenor.  This record is a great chance to hear soprano as a featured voice in a variety of styles.

Overall, the recording quality does a great job of featuring the individual sound of each player while still retaining a cohesive group feeling.  Listeners won’t find any over-the-top reverb on the tracks, but rather a nice balance of the instruments with more of a medium-room sound that a concert hall.  On the loudest of the songs (“Roscopaje” and “Long Island City”), some of subtlety of the saxophone and drum sounds are lost to what sounds more room sound than close micing, but this just serves to give those tracks a more live feel than a studio track.

With the variety of sounds and compositions on this record, most modern jazz listeners (especially those with a taste for European releases) will find something to enjoy on this record.  Those with a taste for soprano saxophone in particular should not miss grabbing this disc.


On the House
The Flight of the Eagle
Long Island City
Tree Line
I Wish I Knew

— John Nastos

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