Trumpeter Liam Sillery's Phenomenology is so natural that only one word can be used to describe it: perfect. Hearkening back to the great outside-leaning Blue Note recordings of the mid and late-'60s, Phenomenology gets better with each listen, as details and intricacies continuously come to light that were missed previously. The music's textures, rhythms and sonorities continuously morph, but not in a distracting, overbearing, or contrived way. There's freedom and a relaxed ease in Phenomenology's every facet, giving the listener a sense that what is heard is the only possible solution given the group's vision.
The title track, which opens the album, establishes the record's aesthetic. After running through the jaunty, bitonal head, Sillery thoroughly interrogates a melodic fragment based off the tune. As the background texture thickens and shifts, bassist Thomas Morgan and pianist Jesse Stacken add statements based on Sillery's ideas. Stacken's slowly intensifying piano pedal-point stokes Matt Blostein's probing alto solo, and after a quiet beginning Stacken's solo evolves into a shimmering wall of sound, built with plenty of tremolos and sustain pedal. Think of Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto For Left Hand. Then, as if coming out of fog, the head emerges. Blostein's key-lime tart alto sound is the perfect foil for Sillery's warm, lush, trumpet tone, which is best seen on the beautiful ballad "Koi." Sillery, who abstains from high-note pyrotechnics in favor of more nuanced and lyrical middle-register playing, begins the piece with plaintive solo lines. As he continues Stacken adds quiet arpeggios, Morgan plucks out sparse bass notes and Vinnie Sperrazza softly splashes radiant cymbals. Enter Blostein, who adds sensitive countermelodies that weave in and out of Sillery's lines.
The end result is sublime.