Saxophonist and composer Assadullahi strikes gold with this rich recording featuring some of Oregon’s finest talent along with Denver trumpet virtuoso Ron Miles. Though Assadullahi relocated to New York after leaving the University of Oregon several years ago, his ties to this region remain strong with frequent visits, gigs, and collaborations. Guitarist Justin Morell, drummer Ryan Biesack, pianist James Miley, and Bassist Tyler Abbott all play and teach in Oregon.
The album’s stunning opening track, “Prized Possession,” combines the group’s love of collective improvisation with textural and timbral variations. It’s a great way to start off the album and paves the way for what remains a highly democratic work. “The Straight Man,” by Morrell, is a slow swinging dirge, full of rich harmonies, contrapuntal lines, and beautiful interaction between Assadullahi and Miles. Throughout, Assadullahi’s writing and playing are strong and inventive. From his tongue-in cheek tune, “The Harbinger,” which plays out over a Beatles-esque British romp, to the uniquely angst-ridden sound of “User Error,” Hasheem shows he is a bright new talent in the world of jazz composition.
The drum and bass team of Abbot and Biesack provide “Pieces” with a strong backbone of groove and rhythmic interaction. I’m not too familiar with Beisack’s playing, but I am excited to hear more from him. One gets the sense that these musicians have been playing with one another for quite some time, that this was not just a pieced-together session. The intent of the leader to make an album which showcases strong group playing, instead of merely recording a standard “blowing session,” or even an album of nice originals, has been fully realized here. This recording will provide your ears and brain with a sense of fulfillment and mystery, even upon multiple listens.