Tobias Meinhart

The Painter
(Sunnyside Records)

As backhanded compliments go, saying Tobias Meinhart doesn’t stand out on his own album is as misleading as it is well-intended. It’s just that the strongest impression that comes off The Painter is of a superb group, set to work on excellent material. The interplay between bassist Matt Penman and drummer Obed Calvaire is absolutely central, a matter quickly established in the rubato intro to “White Bear.” Penman’s solo on “Oak Tree” is masterly, and he’s called into action again for an unaccompanied, double-stopped intro to the title track.

“The Painter” begins with a slow throb, skittering percussion sounds, then raw, vocalized tones on the alto flute before Meinhart’s unselfconscious Coltrane influence asserts itself. It’s a beautiful piece, but like the rest of the album, neither lulling nor merely pictorial or atmospheric. Every track has a strong musical logic and exactly the means needed to realize it. The two guests, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and guitarist Charles Altura, are sparingly but effectively used.

This is a highly impressive achievement, an album quiet enough to slip by you, but packed with wonderful music.