George Grella, New York City Jazz Record
Alto saxophonist Greg Ward has been on the Chicago-New York jazz scene for 15 years now and it was his 2009 album Phonic Juggernaut that made a major splash, its muscular blend of Steve Coleman-ish math rhythms, post-rock and a biting, almost obsessive focus opening many ears. His Fitted Shards: South Side Story was one of the more more innovative fusion albums of the past decade and his live album, Touch My Beloved’s Thought, with his acoustic 10 Tongues ensemble was in line with the late 20th century sound of David Murray’s Octet.
So Ward works in many directions while maintaining his voice. A new band, Rogue Parade, has the sleek, deep groove, with different gears in coordination, patterns woven together in layers, which will probably remind the listener of Tortious (Ward has played with that band). The difference is that while Tortoise could often sound like amazing accompaniment in search of a lead line, this group of Chicago musicians has Ward’s warm, slightly understated solo voice floating within, through and on top of the ensemble.
This band has a palpable sense of purpose, which is primarily rhythm. Drummer Quin Kirchner fills the odd meter with a flurry of notes, but never overplays — each 16th note advances the music and is a tension-filled counter to bassist Matt Ulery’s ostinatos. Ward has two guitars (Matt Gold and Dave Miller) underneath him, in the classic rock band roles of splitting melody and rhythm.
The leader, meanwhile, reminds the listener very much of Coleman on Dave Holland’s classic Extensions, lifting off from the fascinating rhythmic material and energy beneath him, gliding along high enough to see over the horizon ahead and relay information back down to the ensemble. This album is packed with the pleasures of hearing a superb band spin out two-fisted tunes, including a brilliantly oblique “Stardust”.
For more information, visit greenleafmusic.com , Ward is at Miller Theatre Mar. 2nd with Linda May Oh.