Considering music with origins in California's San Joaquin Valley, the names most likely to come to mind are Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, an American music that adopted the name the "Bakersfield Sound." But up the road apiece in Fresno—about a hundred miles north of Bakersfield on Highway 99—a different style of American music, jazz, is sprouting, at the hands of saxophonist and Fresno native Tim Shaghoian.
Gentle Beacons is Shaghoian's debut, a well-crafted work of modern jazz featuring the saxophonist fronting an exceptional quintet on nine of his original compositions, with the Great American Songbook jewel, "My Foolish Heart" set in the center of the proceedings. A malleable melodic treatment is given to this centerpiece, with a near chamber-jazz rendering and a sound which floats outside of time.
The disc opens with "Old Haven In The Waves," with a beautifully austere arrangement sculpting a pensive mood. "Hearts Aligned" begins with a fluid, unaccompanied, minute-and-a-half sax solo which gives way to a gentle bursting to life of the band, then a piquant guitar turn from Chris Janzen, gliding along on the bed of pianist Kevin Person Jr.'s foundation.
Gentle Beacons has a cohesive focus through the ten tunes, with a sound not unlike that found on ECM Records sets by the likes of saxophonist Trygve Seim—Helsinki Songs (2018)—and the Tord Gustavsen Quartet on The Well (2012). Not a bad way to begin a recording career.