4 1/2 STARS Ukrainian bassist Ark Ovrutski arrived on American soil just over a decade ago, and he's been rather busy ever since. A nonstop go-getter from his earliest days, Ovrutski immediately made the most out of that move, steadily working his way into the ultra-competitive New York jazz scene and seeking out opportunities to further his playing and knowledge in formal academic settings and informal environments. Now, with a full gigging schedule, a doctorate from the University of Illinois, and some notable recordings under his name - the southward glancing The Sounds Of Brasil (Self Produced, 2010) and the more stylistically broad-minded 44:33 (Zoho Records, 2014) - Ovrutski can look back with pride on the way he spent his first ten years in the jazz capital of the world. He's truly arrived, and this album makes that point.
Intersection frames Ovrutski's lyrical soloing, warm sound, and strong rhythmic presence within a variety of contexts, highlighting the fact that his range is nearly limitless. "Waltz For Debby" gives pause to appreciate Ovrutski's refined ways with his woody instrument and his arranging skills, as voices waft through the air and melodic duties are shifted around on this Bill Evans classic; "The Twister" points to his push-and-prod playing, as he drives the band and fearlessly interacts with pianist Helio Alves; "Bolero" gives a clear impression that he understands the value of playing a support role for the greater good; and "Tom Thumb" underscores the fact that he's able to seamlessly blend styles and languages, as that Wayne Shorter composition becomes something of a funk-Brazilian-boogaloo hybrid in this band's hands. Take all of that, and then further the picture by looking at the non-stop action on drummer Duduka Da Fonseca's "Manhattan Style" and the calming countenance of Kenny Dorham's "La Mesha." Then you begin to realize just how versatile Ovrutski really is.
While the success of this recording is due, in large part, to what Ovrutski brings to the table on the performance, composition, and arranging ends, a good deal of credit must also go to the top-shelf players that he brought in for the project. Da Fonseca and Alves, who also filled out the rhythm ranks on Sounds Of Brasil, are on the same wavelength with Ovrutski. All three are mutable musical personalities, strong yet flexible men who are capable of changing the current, going with the flow, or pushing back against it. Then there's trombonist Michael Dease, who brings a gorgeous round sound to bear when in the confines of a ballad and hits the ground running when dropped into pressure-cooker environs, and saxophonist Michael Thomas, who alternately soothes and singes. Together, these five make for a dream quintet, agile yet grounded, muscular yet sensitive, and completely in step with one another in terms of sound and vision. The eight numbers on Intersection say all of that and more.