Longevity is a word rarely associated with jazz ensembles these days. The difficulty in retaining a long lasting musical relationship with any one collaborator is hard enough, let alone trying to keep a quartet together.
An ensemble that has weathered the obstacles and remained a cohesive unit should be celebrated. Saxophonist/composer Jerome Sabbagh has led his tremendous quartet for ten years, a rare display of stability in jazz today. Over the years, the band has developed a unique sound, which stems in no small part from the high level of musicianship involved.
Together with guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Ted Poor, Sabbagh has recorded his third album as a leader, The Turn: a terrific reminder of the incredible results that can be achieved by a group of dedicated and talented musicians in complete rapport.
The Turn was recorded live to analog tape by the acclaimed engineer James Farber (Brad Mehldau, John Scofield and Joshua Redman) and mastered by the legendary Doug Sax (Pink Floyd, Diana Krall, Ray Charles and Sonny Rollins), yielding a sound that is clear, natural and warm, highlighting the band’s sonic signature.
As a saxophonist, Jerome Sabbagh is an heir to the jazz tradition along with being a part of the eclectic and vibrant New York jazz scene of today. His attachment to lyricism has helped him forge a distinctive identity as a tenor player.
The members of the quartet are equally versed and accomplished. An inspired soloist with a knack for creative harmonic textures, Ben Monder (himself a noteworthy bandleader, composer, and sideman with Maria Schneider, Paul Motian and Lee Konitz) shows once more why he is one of the great guitarists of our time. Joe Martin is a first-rate bassist with a facile ear and has worked with the likes of Mark Turner and Chris Potter. Drummer Ted Poor provides a steady groove that eschews unnecessary effects. He shapes the music with the creativity and with a sure-footedness that has earned him the trust of Kurt Rosenwinkel and Aaron Parks.
The compositions on the recording are all originals, except “Once Around the Park,” a tune written by the recently deceased master drummer and composer Paul Motian. Sabbagh was one of the last saxophonists hired by Motian and played in the drummer’s “New Trio” alongside Ben Monder at the Village Vanguard in New York in 2011. The band’s take on Motian’s piece is done in tribute to this extraordinary figure.
As a composer, the French saxophonist, a New Yorker since 1995, favors strong melodies and crafts compelling moods. The recording features a variety of songs, ranging from a pop/rock influence (“Electric Sun” and “Banshee”) to the more mysterious (“Cult” and “Ascent”). The cohesiveness is found in the improvising and the strength of the band’s sound.
The recording begins with “The Turn,” with its dirge like beginning eventually exploding with a bright, uptempo flair. “Long Gone” follows with Monder and Sabbagh’s lush tones floating on this tender ballad. The aggressive attitude of “Banshee” (featuring wicked solos from both the leader and the guitarist) is balanced by its polar opposite, “Ascent,” a calm, warm-hearted piece and palate cleanser.
The mildly twangy but completely swinging “The Rodeo” hearkens back to the simpatico between guitarist Jim Hall and saxophonist Sonny Rollins on their classic 1950s recordings. “Cult” is a dark and subtle piece with ominous shadings. Motian’s “Once Around The Park” follows with the composer’s lyrical singsong melody over a slightly jaunty rhythm section. The recording concludes with “Electric Sun,” with its backbeat driven, rock tune pulse and open Western sky optimism.
On his new recording The Turn, Jerome Sabbagh explores new material and reunites with the band that he first assembled upon arriving on the New York jazz scene, a band that has matured into a fantastically expressive working group.
released September 16, 2014
Jerome Sabbagh - tenor sax
Ben Monder - guitar
Joe Martin - bass
Ted Poor - drums