By Ed Enright | Published December 2018
Ostinato—the use of repeated musical lines to provide a sense of drive, forward motion and mounting tension—plays a defining role on Kyle Nasser’s second leader album, embodying the “persistent” in Persistent Fancy. Cycling rhythms and recurrent melodic themes propel the saxophonist’s 13 original compositions and one cover through an ever-evolving terrain of advanced harmony and raw emotion—from the album’s opening track, the broodingly minimalist “Split Gut,” to the lightly skipping closer, “Coffee And Cannabis.”
Nasser’s six-piece ensemble (with alto saxophonist Román Filiú, guitarist Jeff Miles, keyboardist Dov Manski, bassist Nick Jost and drummer Allan Mednard) rides this musical momentum to destinations beyond catchy hooks and memorable grooves. They seek to strike a profound, vivid balance between the cerebral and the sensual, drawing inspiration from literature, philosophy and personal struggle. Nasser’s concept is best exemplified in two mini-suites at the core of Persistent Fancy: The Baroque Suite, a fugue-like romp that cleverly places a modern twist on classical devices, and Eros Suite, which explores impulses of deep-seated desire. The music on Persistent Fancy is cerebral without being pretentious, gnarly but far from vulgar. On “3-Way,” Nasser (on tenor), Filiú and Miles converge for a closely harmonized conversation where dense rubs are relieved by wider interval spreads and voices tend to wander in opposite directions when not moving in parallel.
Nasser hasn’t tried to reinvent himself for this impressive followup to his 2015 debut, Restive Soul. He’s clearly got something here, and he’s developed it carefully, with longer-sighted, more deliberate story arcs and more deeply felt sensuality.