Geno Thackara, All About Jazz

However scary the world seems, Daniel Rotem remains determined to look on the bright side. The New York City saxophonist considers his music not just an art form but a reflection of life with a Zen-like perspective on time. Following suit, Serenading the Future is all about unity. Its framework is a simple one that allows a lovely, expressive emergent behavior from all involved. The multicultural cast all contribute as equal parts to the whole without needing any big showcases, and the music itself is a subtly eloquent exhibit for its themes of optimism and being present in the moment.

Impatient listeners will probably be weeded out (so to speak) by the ten-minute opener, but if they’re not willing to slow down and follow along, it’s their loss. A meandering guitar carries things unaccompanied for the first full minute. Rotem’s sax lines emerge and drift with the unhurried calm of a sunrise. Flutters of piano and percussive splashes join in around the edges. Eventually some smooth electric violin appears to take things out for the coast to the finish. Different members of the core group get turns to steer, though always serving the placid mood in the end.

There’s more variety to come. “Who Is It” picks up the pace with a mild lope, and the first disc reaches cooking point with the more conventional blow of “Push Through.” “Conversation on Letting Go” evokes its theme with a little uncomfortable noise in the later stretch. Even in those spots, though, it’s all about creating together as a unit. Some other instrumental tones come and go: more violin to twine with the leader’s sax here, synth-like distortion there, perhaps some wordless cooing to add to the dreamy mood. Spinning snappy toe-tappers or (more often) easygoing grooves that could coast on the breeze all day long, Rotem and friends never lose sight of the simple joy of creating together. May their future be just as bright and colorful as the present.

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