Trumpeter Thomas Marriott keeps growing as an artist. He has released CDs at a healthy pace since 2005: an introduction for many perhaps unwary jazz fans to some warped country western flavor on Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson (Origin Records, 2008); cranking an all-star quintet up in a modern mainstream mode on Flexicon (Origin Records, 2009); and letting it rip on a two-trumpet blow fest with fellow brass man Ray Vega on East-West Trumpet Summit (Origin Records, 2010). Constraints and Liberations ups his output to two releases in 2010.
Spontaneity has always been a big part of Marriott's jazz game, but with Constraints and Liberations, it seems he has gone deeper into that mode. The set opens with his original "Diagram." A bright splendor of two-horn harmony introduces the tune with a teaming of the leader's open horn and Hans Teuber's haunting tenor saxophone, leading to a shift into brass/reed conversation, with Teuber telepathically finishing Marriott's opening statement.
Here, and throughout the set, the rhythm team?pianist Gary Versace; bassist Jeff Johnson, and drummer John Bishop?maintains a low key tumult that keeps things on edge.
The sound of Constraints and Liberations is often moody and atmospheric, giving the impression of a soundtrack from a movie dealing with impending danger. Marriott is in excellent form, his tone by turns bright or dark, clean or murky, and sometimes anguished, always telling an eloquent story. Teuber's tenor has a distinctive sound, cool and hollow, and somehow diaphanous, like a saxophone played by a disconcerted ghost, while the versatile Versace?who has contributed brilliantly to Maria Schneider's orchestra on accordion, and on organ, piano and accordion on numerous sideman dates including drummers John Hollenbeck and Matt Wilson, well as his own discs as leader?slips into any accompanist/soloist task at hand, with a fluid sparkle on the title tune, or a quirky solo aside on "Diagram."
"Waking Dream" opens with piano teardrops accompanied by a gorgeously introspective muted trumpet. Johnson's bass looms in and lies low, adding, with Bishop's whispering drums, a foundation to the abstraction. "Clues" introduces, in its inception, a late night, foreboding dark alley feeling, bass and drums lurking in the shadows, Marriott and Versace trying to shine a light.
Thomas Marriott keeps moving the art forward. Constraints and Liberations may be his best so far.