By J.D. Considine | Published January 2018
The jazz standard may be the most renewable resource in popular culture. Even though some of these tunes have been in circulation for nearly a century, they remain infinitely malleable and eternally fresh. Obbligato, drummer Tom Rainey’s “standards” band, takes an approach that respects the melody and harmonic structure of these compositions while employing strategies from collective and free improvisation.
Take the torch classic “What’s New.” Obbligato’s take on it opens with a long and discursive solo by bassist Drew Gress. He follows the changes, but the restless invention of his line makes pianist Kris Davis’ eventual statement of the melody almost a surprise. Davis takes things at a rubato tempo, with gull-like chirps from Ingrid Laubrock’s soprano saxophone and a thrumming, coloristic pulse from Rainey. The performance evolves from there, with Ralph Alessi’s trumpet evoking Chet Baker and Lester Bowie in equal measure. Yet the haunting Bob Haggart refrain remains front-and-center the whole time, offering the perfect balance between the pleasure of a familiar melody and the thrill of hearing something entirely new.
Float Upstream: Stella By Starlight; Beatrice; What Is This Thing Called Love; What’s New; There Is No Greater Love; Float Upstream; I Fall In Love Too Easily. (43:18)
Personnel: Ralph Alessi, trumpet; Ingrid Laubrock, saxophones; Kris Davis, piano; Drew Gress, bass; Tom Rainey, drums.