Behind the drum kit is Matt Jorgensen, but it is the entire band that is behind this evolving and warm music.
Following "The Road Begins Here" and "Quiet Silence" Matt Jorgensen+451 seem more comfortable as a band with "Hope." Slow grooves flow like syrupy, sweet honey, and quick hooks grip the listener into incessant finger snaps.
This is a fun album. This is a great band.
"This album was much more of a group effort than the ones in the past," Jorgensen said. "Everyone is kind of getting it."
From the opening track, "Slinky," it is apparent that Matt Jorgensen+451 has found the pulsating confidence (as accented by Phil Spark's infectious, pulsating bass) that separates exceptional bands from mere good ones.
This tune starts with funky rim shots that lead into a smoking head composed by saxophonist Mark Taylor. Band members then take their solo slots, with a guest appearance by Seattle tenor-sax player Hans Teuber.
All play well, especially Fender Rhodes enthusiast, Ryan Burns. Comping into his solo, his fingers dance over the keys with Jimmy Smith-esque ease.
Interestingly, Burns always seems to mysteriously disappear before gigs. Some have seen him run to the nearest phone booth and come back to play with Superman-like prowess: the Clark Kent of the Fender Rhodes.
The band interprets the classic "Fables of Faubus," by Charles Mingus - during which bassist Sparks ably plays Mingus' part - and Matt Otto's "Che." However, the proficient drummer has said that older jazz is based off early Broadway hits.
In that tradition, Jorgensen decided to cover Cold Play's recent tune "God Put a Smile on Your Face." The song follows the melody and then contorts it into polyphonic sax parts played beautifully by Taylor, with Burns adding spacey auras with his Mooger Fooger and Jorgensen contributing splashing cymbals.
Jorgensen's playing is strong as usual, drawing broad influences from older drummers like Elvin Jones and newer percussionist like Brian Blade. His most notable solo is during his composition "Pack Sack," a hard, bopping tune with a catchy head in the Art Blakey vein.
Burns' song is "Ibrahymn," featuring David Marriot playing trombone very smoothly. This slow groove shows off Burns' softer piano touch, trading the cape for his suit.
Taylor's original contribution, "Sanguine" is also very light and reflective. He and Jorgensen play nicely off one another and Taylor's sax parts meld well.
The title track of the album, composed by Jorgensen, is separated into three parts, but out of numerical sequence, with "Hope Part Two" coming after "Hope Part One" and"Hope Part Three." The first contains sparse drum accents and bass bowed thoughtfully by Sparks. Jorgensen said he wanted to specifically feature the bass during this tune.
The third has a faster tempo and a drum feature. It has pounding drums and shaky high-hat tambourine parts reminiscent of one of Jorgensen's favorites, John Bonham.
The second, which ends the album, has an Indian theme with a tambura flowing in the background and Taylor's sax jabbing out lines leading into the outro: a lone, floating tambura. All parts hold the album together well.
"This is a song of hope," Jorgensen said. "You can be hopeful in a contemplative sense. You can be hopeful where you're shouting, and you can be hopeful yet not know what the future holds....Part One was meant to be more of a contemplative, looking-back. And Part Two is more in the moment, and Part Three is more looking forward."
Whatever the future holds for this band, one thing is for certain, Matt Jorgensen+451 are pushing jazz in a different and interesting direction.