Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Drew Gress – The Sky Inside

Drew Gress
The Sky Inside

Drew Gress - Bass, Electronics
Tim Berne - Alto Saxophone
Ralph Alessi - Trumpet
Craig Taborn - Piano
Tom Rainey - Drums

The Sky Inside is the fourth release by Drew Gress with essentially the same group. He started with Spin & Drift (2001, Premonition), a release that looked good on paper but never really fulfilled its promise. 7 Black Butterflies (2005, Premonition) substituted Craig Taborn for Uri Caine and added trumpeter Ralph Alessi. I initially passed when it came out, but eventually came around and was very glad I did. He followed that with The Irrational Numbers (2008, Koch), another excellent record.

The Sky Inside shows that everyone has grown as mature, expressive players over the years. Tom Rainey is a modern rhythm master, able to accentuate the proceedings without calling undue attention to himself. Tim Berne and Alessi are both in the middle of probably the most productive periods of their careers, with their respective ECM albums and numerous guest appearances. Taborn shows himself to particularly good effect, whether helping hold down repeating rhythmic figures or providing key transitions in the compositions.

There’s always something interesting going on with Gress’s arrangements, a sense of motion and intricacy underneath while the horns play with and around each other. While his compositions strike a balance between melody and abstraction, In Streamline stands out because it is simply, unabashedly, beautiful. It reminded me of one of those perfect fall days when I lived in NYC, walking along brownstones in the afternoon sun, everything right with the world, if only for a moment. It’s the kind of performance that would be perfect on the soundtrack of a sophisticated, urban film.

As with the previous releases, there’s a very subtle use of electronic effects to enhance the arrangements in some places on the record. I usually hate any kind of studio manipulation, but the effects work here because they are so unobtrusive.

Distribution has been an issue recently for the label in the U.S., but you should be able to get it through Downtown Music Gallery, or through the Pirouet website.

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