The Future Was Yesterday opens with a bass/drum knock and rumble, churning ahead with a loose momentum. A bit after a minute into the song "Inner Vision" the piano chords in with some gentle chimes, and you know right off you're listening to a hell of a rhythm section. Then Brad Wheeler blows into the mix on a robust and searching tenor, and you know you've got a hell of a saxophonist, too.
That opener has me thinking of the classic Coltrane quartet -- Tyner, Garrison, and Elvin Jones with Trane, circa Crescent, with a sound you'd classify as mainstream, but pushing the very limits of the category. That's the pattern for the entire disc. Though the collective sound is different from the Coltrane unit's, the group dynamic here is very interactive, full of surprises, with some gripping solo work by both Wheeler and pianist Laurence Hobgood, as well as lots of spirited conversations between the two.
If that's not enough, John Moulder kicks in with some searing guitar chops on a few tunes, most interestingly when Wheeler blows soprano, ripping off guitar-like licks in answer to Moulder's wailing on "Journey After Hours." But on "Foreign Affair" Moulder goes to the acoustic guitar, making that foreign affair sound Spanish, flamenco-like.
A great rhythm section, a vibrant saxophonist, and some fascinating compositions -- all of them Wheeler-penned -- full of unpredictable movement and odd turns. To pick a highlight out of a strong set, I'd have to go with the title tune, which is Joe Henderson-like in its fluid string of constant surprises.
An excellent set, cerebral and cooking at the same time, and when that guitar comes screaming in, kicking out the jams.