American trumpeter Russ Johnson and Swiss saxophonist Co Streiff certainly abide by the press release statements, indicating the musicians’ cross-cultural inferences and recurring use of melody within the progressive-jazz and improvisational realm. Recorded live, sans the final piece “Confession,” the quartet toggles between feathery light grooves and pulsating charts, largely comprised of ascending choruses and capacious soloing jaunts.
The core framework is centered on a diverse track mix, designed with layered horns, understated contrasts and spiraling unison motifs. The frontline and the energetic rhythm section, merge an adventure-seeking methodology via budding theme-building exercises and brazen solo spots. These attributes are evident on the title track “In Circles,” amid a few cunning detours that accelerate the interest level. The band also projects an emotive component with ominously crafted undercurrents and bustling cadences as they converge for a point of reentry during the closeout.
Johnson’s brazen tone and Streiff’s resourceful bag of tricks translate into multifarious improvisational segments, dappled with exploratory persuasions. However, they prevent matters from getting out of hand, and strike a cogent balance between structure, melody, counterpoint and offsetting storylines throughout the program. And on “Tomorrow Dance,” drummer Julian Sartorius opens with a polyrhythmic drumming vamp, featuring trickling rim-shot hits, and what sounds like small wood blocks, followed by the hornists’ cheery lines over-the-top. It’s an album that also offers a compelling equation of temperance and tension.
“Fark Lark,” is a piece that radiates Ornette Coleman harmolodics, featuring Sartorius’s Ed Blackwell style melodic tom rolls to underscore a peppery vibe, and adding another dimension to the quartet’s arsenal. Simply put, “In Circles” is a top-shelf product, casting a mark of authenticity unlike similar outings within these settings by others, often built on pure cacophony or a total disregard for melody. –
Co Streiff: Alto saxophone, Soprano Saxophone; Russ Johnson: Trumpet; Christian Weber: Bass; Julian Sartorius: Drums.