Chris Mondak

Glass Spheres
(Summit)

Venezuelan-born and now Nashville-based Chris Mondak, 24, is building upon a sturdy reputation in upward motion. Here, he steps out as leader of an impressive young quintet, venturing assuredly over Mondak’s well-crafted compositions, though not breaking particularly new ground. Glass Spheres was recorded in a single day in Nashville, old-school style, and has an infectious and organic live feel without additives (apart from the occasional effect from guitarist Lindon McCarty).Album opener “Low” hits the ground running at an easy, steadily swinging pace, introducing the fluid aplomb of tenor saxophonist Hunter Smith and pianist Gabe Feldman. An offbeat structural concept sneaks into the album’s highlight, “Oath Keeper,” reportedly inspired by a Game of Thrones episode. In the introduction, teasingly loose layers of Mondak’s scampering bass, a simple Mingus-y sax motif and piano murmurings in the margins congeal into drummer Chris Broomhead’s bright, slap-happy groove. Hints of the earlier elements fly in and out in a happy mesh, and the tune ends with sax abruptly fluttering into the wings, a welcome raggedy edge. “Blume” is an intriguing almost-waltz.

“Juicy Red” commences with that rarity in jazz, a fade-in, as if the party is already underway when we arrive, fashionably late. Guitarist McCarty summons up his finest solo of the date, taking some enticing harmonic liberties around the changes. Closing out the easygoing but also engaging album, Mondak heads over to New Orleans, in spirit, for the second-line grooving “Hats Off.” In a final winking twist, the band gets a jolt of accelerando on the off-ramp.



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