If it were not for Origin Records, many of the wonderful jazz players of the Pacific Northwest would be unknown to those of us out here in the hinterlands. Among the most creative of these is trumpeter Thomas Marriott, a Seattle native who has had five releases as leader on Origin in the last six years. Constraints & Liberations
is the latest, and it may be the best yet.
This time Marriott concentrates on his own compositions, contributing six of the seven tunes. He fronts a quintet of veterans capable of confidently performing these often complex pieces?tenor saxophonist Hans Teuber, pianist Gary Versace, bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop, co-owner of Origin.
The dense "Diagram" gets thing off to a head-turning, ear-opening start, saying a lot in just over four minutes. The rhythm section percolates mightily under the horns, which alternate in dialogue between relaxed and tense lines, and Versace's solo is a thing of unique beauty. The tempo is slower and the mood is more mysterious on "Up from Under," with Marriott playing with tremendous passion as his solo builds in intensity. Versace voices his solo and his comping with unusual chord progressions, urging on Teuber to deliver a searing solo.
The uptempo title track is open enough to allow for plenty of improvised variations by Marriott and Teuber as the rhythm section keeps it pulsing with interesting twists and turns and Versace contributes another brilliant solo, largely consisting of well-placed chords. As the title implies, "Waking Dream" is taken at a dreamy, somnambulistic pace. Marriott plays a breathy muted horn over a simple, suspended chord structure, and searching solos by Versace and Johnson expand on the dream theme.
With its optimistic tone, "Early Riser" does indeed evoke the dawning of a new day. Marriott's playing hews closely to his horn's comfortable middle range, while Teuber ventures farther afield with leaping tenor lines. Johnson's "Clue" is a loosely constructed tune that urges the players to free-blowing expression. Marriott beautifully stretches his trumpet lines over the framework. As the piece intensifies, Versace picks up the thread with a minimalist solo that morphs into something more sinister. The composer's own solo is full of warmth and woody resonance.
The title of the final track, "Treadstone 71," refers to a secret operation in Robert Ludlum's book "The Bourne Identity." Rhythmically free, it contains elements of mystery and musical searching. Like the title of this wonderful CD, the music suggests that much artistic expression combines freedom with restraint.