This is not just another collection of intelligent contemporary jazz originals by a group of talented Pacific Northwest artists. It is one of more than 80 CDs produced by Origin Records, the prolific Seattle jazz label, publisher and presenting organization, and it is distinguished by the qualities that many of the label's products display: great writing, a fresh sound and excellent musicianship.
It's also by Origin Records co-owner Matt Jorgensen's own group, and features six of the drummer's compositions as well as two by saxophonist Mark Taylor and one by keyboard player Ryan Burns (veteran bassist Phil Sparks fills out the core group, which adds the saxophonists Hans Tueber and Portlander Rob Davis on several tunes).
The group, Matt Jorgensen + 451, sets a high standard for composition by including Charles Mingus' "Fables of Faubus," with its swinging, hard-bopping strut and catchy melody. And the best tunes on "Hope" do approach, in contemporary terms, the melodic grace and the harmonic and rhythmic complexity of the modernist masters.
The first track, "Slinky," for instance, with a Coltrane-like modal structure grounded in a compelling bass figure, presents a powerful melody and doesn't stray far from it despite a little extended blowing. That tendency to show off all your chops doesn't intrude much on this CD, although the great riff that opens "Pack Sack" gets lost in a muddle of Fender Rhodes piano effects. The desire to showcase all the sounds on that vintage instrument is more tempered on the dreamy ballad "Peacefulness," though.
The strange title tune is broken into three parts (and, oddly enough, Part 3 comes before Part 2). Part 1 is a tone poem of sorts that left me waiting for more; Part 3 is more rhythmic, with its steady tom-toms from Jorgensen, but it's built on a series of spacey tones from sax and keyboards. Part 2, anchored by a keyboard drone with the saxophone noodling and the drums busy in the background, returns to tone-poem territory.