Saxophonist Tim Armacost, who recently impressed this listener as part of the NYSQ has his Whirlwind Recordings backed by a crackerjack rhythm section of Robert Hurst (double bass), and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums) with David Kikoski (piano) on a few selections. The result is a striking album from start to finish as Armacost comes across as a player with tone and intensity, imagination and drive starting with the opening "Alawain" with a sound that has hints of Coltrane, Hank Mobley and others. This is simply an analogy, but Watts comes across as explosive as Elvin Jones while Hurst is a rock anchoring this performance.
The title track is begins as a smokey lament with Armacost employing an effective vibrato in his dark tone with Watts in a free pulse accenting the sax before a slight shift in tempo and a looser mood before the first of three interlude-type numbers titled in part "Sculpture." Kikoski adds his lyrical touch to "The Next 20," a lovely ballad performance from the quartet with some affecting playing from Armacost. The trio next is heard playing authoritatively on Monk's "Teo," which wonderful solo and responsive backing. Kikoski is also present on "One in Four," an attractive composition that might hint at the classic Coltrane Quartet with Armacost delving in the lower reaches of the tenor with Kikoski's chording and Watts being particularly explosive. Ornette Coleman's poignant "Lonely Woman," has his aching tenor interacting with Hurst's urgent bass lines on a superb interpretation and followed by a solid hard bop original "53rd St. Theme."
"Sculpture #3: All the Things You Could Become in the Large Hadron Collider," finds Kikoski's bebop piano set against the leader's jarring tenor sax as they both solo off the chords of the standard "All the Things You Are," before they reach a harmonious accord. Its is an invigorating and imaginative conclusion to a terrific recording. Armacost is superb as is his stellar band mates on a recording that stands out among even so many excellent recent ones.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the November-December 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 375). Here is a clip of Tim Armacost in performance.