Artist: David Binney
Album: The Time Verses
Reviewed By Scott Yanow
Jazz Artistry Now – David Binney has never taken the easy way out in his music or played an obvious phrase. The altoist was born in Miami and raised in Southern California. After picking up the alto-saxophone and graduating from high school, he moved to New York where he studied with such major players as Phil Woods, Dave Liebman, and George Coleman.
Mr. Binney recorded his first CD as a leader, Point Game, in 1989. He led three other albums (including two on his Mythology label) in the 1990s, and since 2000 has been the leader of 22 additional CDs including nine for the Criss Cross label. While he has worked with such notables as Gil Evans, Maria Schneider, Alex Sipiagin, Bill Frisell, Brian Blade, Jim Hall, Leni Stern and Steven Bernstein, he is best known as the leader of his own combos.
For The Time Verses, Mr. Binney utilized pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist Eivind Opsvik, and drummer Dan Weiss. He has worked regularly with those musicians at the 55 Bar and elsewhere during the past decade. Their familiarity with his avant-garde music, unique approach to improvising, and unpredictable solos is apparent. Rather than playing a melody and then utilizing the repeated set of chord changes as the basis for improvising, Mr. Binney creates music that evolves as it develops, rarely sticking to a pattern for long.
The Time Verses has 14 performances. Five (“Dawn,” “Morning Tide,” “Noon Tide,” “Evening Tide” and “Dusk”) are very brief (under 30 seconds apiece) electronic interludes played by Mr. Binney on a synthesizer that act as transitions every two or three songs. Also, “Arc Reprise,” which is a little over a minute in length, is just the bass pattern for his piece “Arc,” so in reality there are eight full-length performances by the quartet on The Time Verses.
“Walk” has a written-out bass interlude that anchors the music. Mr. Binney states the melancholy theme, there is a quiet section in the middle for Mr. Opsvik’s bowed bass along with some voice samples, and then the second half of the performance features Mr. Binney’s high-powered alto over a furious bassline. Its episodic nature sets the standard for the other compositions.
“Arc” begins as a ballad waltz. However, the bulk of the piece has Mr. Binney improvising over chord changes that become more complex as the piece progresses before concluding as a thoughtful ballad.
“Strange Animal” is a colorful piece with unexpected stops and starts, musically depicting an animal wandering around and exploring the terrain. The piano parts are quite complex but well played, and Mr. Binney creates another fiery statement.
“Seen” has a guest vocal by Jen Shyu who sings the lyrics that she wrote to Mr. Binney’s “Simple Vibe” – this is one of the closest pieces on the CD to being a conventional-sounding song form although it also contains its unexpected moments.
“The Reason To Return” is a high-energy performance with chord changes that seem impossible to improvise over; somehow Mr. Binney’s alto playing makes sense of it all.
“Time Takes Its Time” has short written sections that do not repeat, brief solos, and electronic sounds from a synthesizer. The odd-sounding piece is mostly taken out of tempo with Mr. Binney’s closing alto solo adding some heat to the landscape.
“Where World’s Collide,” which has Shai Golan’s alto added to the melody statements, uses a traditional format but has the soloists again playing over very complicated chord changes. Mr. Binney takes one of his strongest and most passionate improvisations of the project here.
Other than a pair of short pieces, The Time Verses concludes with “Fifty Five” which has a quirky melody worthy of Wayne Shorter. After the theme, the quartet digs into the post-bop swinger, taking inventive solos that build upon the piece’s theme.
David Binney’s music, which is potentially forbidding, grows in interest with each listen. It is well worth exploring.
1. Dawn (David Binney) 0:26
2. Walk (David Binney) 10:55
3. Arc (David Binney) 5:10
4. Morning Tide (David Binney) 0:24
5. Strange Animal (David Binney) 8:55
6. Seen (David Binney) 7:25*
7. Noon Tide (David Binney) 0:25
8. The Reason To Return (David Binney) 6:08
9. Time Takes It’s Time (David Binney) 6:12
10. Evening Tide (David Binney) 0:18
11. Where Worlds Collide (David Binney) 11:24**
12. Fifty-Five (David Binney) 6:15
13. Arc Reprise (David Binney) 1:14
14. Dusk (David Binney) 0:27
Total Time: 65:59
Recorded February 17, 2016, in Brooklyn, NY, USA by Max Ross
David Binney – Alto Saxophone, Voice, Electronics
Jacob Sacks – Piano
Eivind Opsvik – Bass
Dan Weiss – Drums
Jen Shyu – Voice*
Shai Golan – Alto Saxophone**
See – www.DavidBinney.com
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The Jazz Artistry Now review of The Time Verses written by Scott Yanow was published in November 2017.
Mr. Yanow has written 11 books on jazz, over 800 liner notes, and more than 20,000 recording reviews through the years. His writing has graced virtually all of the top jazz magazines and he is happy to be a new contributor to Jazz Artistry Now.