The "Rising Star" status isn't confined to fresh music school graduates. Dr. Anthony Branker, Educator - who, for twenty-seven years, was engaged in a big way with Princeton University's jazz program - has achieved a recent "rising star" tag as a composer. This after releasing seven top notch CDs for Origin Records, including the masterful Uppity (2013).
"Composer/Musical Director" is Branker's title on his recordings. He doesn't play, but rather molds the sounds of several different small group jazz collectives. On Beauty Within, it's Anthony Branker & Imagine, a quintet with a piano/guitar-centered rhythm section and a saxophone. His vision is a that of a distinctive and often edgy modern jazz, sometimes propulsive, sometimes circuitous.
Opening with "Joy," an initially jagged tune imbued with a David Binney-like intensity and forward momentum tune, featuring the impassioned tenor saxophone of Ralph Bowen and a luminous backdrop made of the melding of Fabian Almazan's piano and Pete McCann's soaring guitar. The title tune - introduced by Linda Oh's inspire bass solo - has a gliding, empyreal mood, initially a showcase for the collective, that gives away to a sublime, full-of-surprises piano solo from Almanzan.
"Loving Day (June 12)" opens a door to a mystery world, with a beautiful murkiness; and at this point a connection to the 1960s Blue Note sound creeps in; and not the more straight ahead of those efforts, but more to the style of Herbie Hancock's more adventurous side, or Andrew Hill's marvelous and under-appreciated output.
Drummer Rudy Royston has to mentioned for his oblique and emphatic contribution throughout, giving a consistence elevation of to this unpredictable and thoroughly modern sound of Antony Branker.