Caleb Wheeler Curtis


Heatmap marks saxophonist and composer Caleb Wheeler Curtis’s third release as leader on Imani Records. Boasting a lineup that includes Orrin Evans, Gerald Cleaver and Eric Revis, an abundance of skill and spirit is contained within the album’s 10 tracks. The experience of these players, blended with Curtis’s appreciation for the negative space of music, carves out peaks and valleys, which form Heatmap’s musical character. The music isn’t oversaturated in technique, nor is it a room with too many cooks in the musical kitchen.

Curtis weaves a delicate but striking current of melodic eccentricity around the rest of the band, either contrasting with a track’s chosen imagery or further embodying it. On “Heatmap,” the music gradually and collectively rises in intensity like the creeping mercury in a thermometer, while Curtis’ saxophone cuts across the top with notes on a far less straightforward trajectory. Whereas in “Trembling,” Curtis’ improvisatory approach complements Cleaver’s rapid cymbals, Evans’ high octave chords and nimble right hand flourishes, and Revis’ bustling bass plucks. Together, they create an air of frenetic anxiety befitting of the piece’s title but each player’s individuality is heard via how they opt to present this emotion, while never crashing into one another.

Curtis’ shift to a more restrained melody and legato playing style on “Spheres” combines with Evans’s cyclical motif to close Heatmap with a calmer but nevertheless vivid concept. Heatmap radiates with brilliance, highlighting the very act of playing music and the intangible but irreplaceable energy that doing so creates.

On Sale Now
September 2023
Kris Davis
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