Saxophonist Matt Otto is Los Angeles-based these days, but for his fifth CD, Red, he got together with some musical running mates from his time in New York: guitarist Greg Toughy, drummer Qasim Naqvi, and bassist Danton Boller. Considering its standard jazz lineup of tenor sax and a rhythm section, the band has crafted quite an original sound.
The set of eight Otto orignals sustains a hauntingly restrained mood from start to finish, churning along in a cool fluid simmer that rises at times toward a slow boil, without ever quite doing so. And that dyamic works very well in this case. The sound, the blend of tenor sax and guitar, the gentle insistence of the bass/drums has a forlorn, restrained midtempo beauty that translates to an insideously mesmerizing listening experience. It's as if Otto and company have seized upon a series of relatively simple musical ideas and driven themselves deeply into them with a smoldering, frictionless group equilibrium.
Otto's tone has a round, ringing quality, and I get the feeling that on this outing the saxophonist may have been influenced by the trio put togther by bassist Jeff Johnson with sax man Hans Teuber and drummer Tad Britton on the excellent Near Earth (Origin Records, '04). While it manifests a different collective personality than Near Earth, Red has a similar feeling of tranquility and, also similarly, it enchants, compelling the listener into multiple spins.