By Dave Cantor | Published November 2018
There’s a woozy feeling emanating from bassist Michael Formanek’s latest leader date.
It’s not anything like staggering intoxication; more like a calm, yet unrestrained, creativity that seems to shift these eight tunes from section to reeling section with the assistance of limber-limbed Ches Smith scuttling a surprising clangor on his kit. Smith’s never overwhelming, though, just poignant and poised as pianist Kris Davis adds leagues of color to the spate of original tunes. That backdrop enables these impressionistic works to succeed so well.
Despite its lineup and track names—“This May Get Ugly” and “A Fine Mess”—Time Like This is a quiet, knotty set of tunes that wends its way through the complexities of its namesake bandleader’s capacious writing. Tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby functions as the featured voice here, though he’s never overbearing, meeting the music on its conspicuously collected terms. For as free as portions of “Culture Of None” and “The Soul Goodbye” might seem, if only for a few brief moments, the beauty cultivated, as Davis moves sprightly alongside Smith’s patter, seems almost miraculous. That it’s all achieved without boisterous theatrics speaks to not just the compositional mastery behind Time Like This, but also to these players’ abilities to foster Formanek’s vision while maintaining their individual sonic personas.