Anthony Branker is rising to the top of American jazz composers and it is easy to hear why on his seventh album for Origin Records titled Beauty Within. He is a leader of three ensembles, Word Play, Ascent and on this record teaming with Imagine.
Beauty Within is a stunning post-bop jazz album that showcases the exceptional talent of his band. The musical director leads a very talented group of players including Ralph Bowen (tenor and soprano saxophones), Pete McCann (guitar), Fabian Almazan (piano), Linda Oh (double bass) and Rudy Royston (drums).
The album's first track "Joy" is exactly that, a playfully melodic jazz tune that ventures into fusion territory with some fiery guitar work. The polyrhythmic drum skills of Royston are also on full display as he has some serious chops. On the title track an acoustic bass solo sets the mood before sweeping cymbals and sax lead to a piano solo and as the music builds the drum work is awe inspiring. In "Loving Day (June 12)" the sax adds an element of melodicism as sprinkling background piano and greater complexity envelop the listener eventually building into ripping sax and drums. The intensity sinuously winds back and forth allowing each member to show their chops in a meaningful and tasteful way.
Other highlights include the wonderful piano and sax in the lighter "(God's) Wisdom" and the energetic "People Everywhere" showcasing mind bending guitar and saxophone.
Imaginative and splendidly delivered, Beauty Within proves Anthony Branker and his ensemble is a force to be reckoned with in the world of modern post-bop jazz. Highly recommended.