Seattle-based pianist Randy Halberstadt's second release for Origin offers three attractive dimensions to his music as performer and composer.
The band is Randy Halberstadt's regular trio - Randy Halberstadt (piano), Jeff Johnson (bass), Mark Ivester (drums) ? expanded to a quintet on seven of the nine tracks with the addition of Mark Taylor (alto /soprano saxes) and Thomas Marriott (trumpet / flugelhorn).
Miles Davis' 'Solar' and Sam Rivers' 'Beatrice' feature as vehicles for the trio alone to demonstrate the tightness and understanding that comes from the experience of regularly playing together. Expanded to a quintet, there is also an interesting take on the much-worked Bronislau Kaper standard 'On Green Dolphin Street'.
The album steps up a gear in the six Randy Halberstadt original compositions.
'Rigenia', 'Woofer' and 'Better Than One' are intelligent, high energy, hard bop compositions that grab the attention.
But the highlights of the album are the three tracks ? 'Unspoken', 'Five By Three' and 'Discovery' ? that open up a wider vision.
'Unspoken' is non-derivative, Miles-like and highly involving. Thomas Marriott's Harmon-muted trumpet gives the clue; this is music with the openness, time and space for wonderful things to happen ? great soloing from, first, Mark Taylor on soprano sax, then Jeff Johnson on bass, then Rand Halberstadt himself on piano ? all built around a memorable theme carried on soprano sax with interweaving piano and trumpet. Outstanding.
'Discovery' continues where 'Unspoken' leaves off, perhaps like the second part of a suite. Thomas Marriott is now on flugelhorn. The tempo is raised slightly and the approach is as good ? another memorable bass solo from Jeff Johnson, resonant soprano sax playing from Mark Taylor, a fine horn solo from Thomas Marriott, an expansive piano solo from the leader ? great playing built around another memorable theme.
'Five By Three' takes a more asymmetric approach with harmonized horns rising over a skittering piano motif. Once again, the music is open in space and time to allow involving soloing ? piano, then bass, the stand out solos.
Highly recommended. One of the best jazz albums released this year.