David Binney

The Time Verses
(Criss Cross)

For his ninth Criss Cross album as leader or co-leader, alto saxophonist David Binney convened his New York working quartet—pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Dan Weiss—which regularly plays the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village. But The Time Verses isn’t the club-friendly blowing session this might imply; the album comprises a multi-layered suite, complete with post-production electronics, vocals and atmospheric interludes.

Binney’s writing here rarely relies on rhythmic patterning, instead exploiting some rich, expansive melodies. This is strikingly true on “Seen,” an older Binney instrumental to which vocalist Jen Shyu added lyrics. The song’s aching melody feels bespoke for her warm, subtle singing and affecting insights into loss and memory, which fit the album’s loose theme of time as a fleeting resource. Playing off that melodic-emotive substance, a great Binney solo builds in intensity to cathartic effect.

Throughout, the improvisation feels hand-in-glove with the written material. Sacks’ extended solo adds textural allure to “Strange Animal,” while Opsvik adds a ghostly arco coda to his solo on “Walk.” Weiss’ wonderfully kinetic drumming drives “The Reason To Return.” The prog-rock electronics of “Time Takes Its Time” feel a bit bolted-on, and the album may have one too many ephemeral interludes. Yet “Where Worlds Collide” is pure cohesiveness, with some fiery Binney alto over shifting time signatures.

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