By John Murph | Published October 2017
Mark Guiliana received much of his earlier acclaim for concocting combustive rhythms that combine the tricky patterns associated with electronica and hip-hop with the knotty improvisational intricacies of jazz.
Such is the case for his jazz quartet’s engrossing and transportive second outing, Jersey, on which Guiliana’s rhythmic agility and momentum provide the spark for an engaging program of tunes that optimizes the group’s accord, as well as the leader’s fine compositions.
With its deliberate, singable melodies and infectious rhythms, Jersey is decidedly song-focused. That certainly comes through on the drummer’s originals, such as the brooding “September,” which features tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby blowing a lamenting melody across bassist Chris Morrissey’s acro bass line and Fabian Almazan’s rumbling piano accompaniment; the evocative title track, on which Rigby’s hushed tone and succinct melodicism emit a ruminative shimmer; and the enchanting “Big Rig Jones,” which retains a hummable hook despite Guiliana’s spliced-up rhythms and forceful propulsion. Morrissey contributes two winning compositions—the capricious Latin-tinged “Our Lady” and the billowing “The Mayor Of Rotterdam.”
Guiliana’s pyrotechnics blaze on the impressionistic interlude, “Rate,” a solo drum piece dedicated to Roy Haynes, Art Blakey, Tony Williams and Elvin Jones. But even here, there’s sophisticated architecture at play. And on the jagged-edged “Inter-are,” which opens the disc, the leader allows harder angular rhythms to steer the ensemble through shifting passages.
Jersey conveys tremendous emotional poignancy. But it reaches a deep melancholic state with a gorgeous reading of David Bowie’s “Where Are We Now?,” which closes the disc. Rigby and Almazan each take turns improvising on the melody in elegiac fashion. As Guiliana’s symphonic drumming helps build the song’s intensity, the band sings the song’s hymnal lyrics—all of which makes for a heartfelt finale.
Jersey: Inter-are; Jersey; Our Lady; BP; Rate; September; Big Rig Jones; The Mayor Of Rotterdam; Where Are We Now? (46:59)
Personnel: Mark Guiliana, drums; Jason Rigby, tenor saxophone; Fabian Almazan, piano; Chris Morrissey, bass.