Filipe Freitas, Jazz Trail

Weighting, the fourth studio album by pianist Gabriel Zucker consists in an extended composition divided into eight movements. The music, inspired by excerpts of Rachel Kushner’s novel The Flamethrowers, is performed by a bass-less new quartet whose frontline is composed of Eric Trudel on tenor saxophone and Adam O’Farrill on trumpet, two members of Zucker’s big band Delegation. Rounding out the group is the excellent drummer Tyshawn Sorey, who has no problem in adding creativity while adjusting his playing to the composer’s intentions.

The album kicks in with “Would It Come Back To You”, where the consummate polyphony generated by O’Farrill and Trudel soon turns into a parallel movement. It is untied after a while, favoring a motivic call-response activity with variations in timbre. Percussive elements are inserted in a lower voice on the eve of a rampant entry point that bursts with harmony and percussion. Zucker and Sorey contribute considerably from then on with sensational piano textures and exuberant rhythmic drive, respectively. It’s a triumphant opening.

The Uselessness of Truth / Not To Be Anything More” offers hymnal piano, complemented with spiraling moves and a wide range of percussive sounds. Yet, the spotlight is on Trudel, who combines air notes, coiled cries, and pithy popping sounds. For the following movement, “The Stream of New York / And Art, Of Course”, Zucker initially holds a one-note pedal on a higher register while designing nebulous chords with the left hand. The tune advances with a bracing fervency, ending up in a strapping vamp, provocatively stirred by Sorey and serving Trudel’s explorative voice.

From the moment that O’Farrill launches “Missing Our Appointment With Each Other”, one is touched by contemplation. Saxophone adds further melody into a classical chamber piece that cools off the listener with its lyricism. The last half minute, already with the virtuosic pianist on board, prepares the way to the alluring “What’s Left / The Future Was a Place”, a subtle, organic blend of modern classical and dreamy jazz, where the line between written score and improvisation is blurred by the quartet’s exhilarating sense of freedom. There’s a ragged sort of elegance in this outstanding movement that translates into trancing sounds of touching beauty.

The luminous “A Movie, A Lover” goes through different phases. It starts off with push-pulls of rhythmic irreverence, passes by a zone of serenading balladic intimacy, and climaxes in a taut rock irruption replete of fierce avant-garde jabs.

Zucker’s advanced compositional work is knotty, unpredictable, and utterly satisfying. Spinning with freshness and maturity, Weighting is put forward with a sterling avant-garde posture that reflects the artistry and commitment of the musicians involved.

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 – It Would Come Back To You ► 03 – The Stream of New York / And Art, Of Course ► 05 – What’s Left / The Future Was a Place

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