Quinsin Nachoff

Flux
Mythology Records MR0012

By Ken Waxman

Like a Para-Olympian who triumphs in a contest despite lacking something usually deemed fundamental, tenor saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff has composed a set of seven well-balanced creations with a quartet missing one jazz necessity: a double bass. But so skillfully are the tunes affiliated and so sophisticated are his musical associates that it’s almost unnoticed.

A former Torontonian, now based in New York, Nachoff, who also composes for big bands and string ensembles in North America and Australia, makes sure Flux’s flow is maintained by relying on three of New York’s nonpareil improvisers: alto saxophonist David Binney; Kenny Wollesen on drums and, percussion; and Matt Mitchell who stretches his hands over piano, Fender Rhodes, organ, Wurlitzer and Moog synthesizer, sometimes synchronously. Like a generic drug compared to an original, Mitchell’s bottom notes and Wollesen’s faultless beat remove the need for a bassist. More crucially through the drummer’s animated clatter or hard backbeat plus Mitchell’s harmonic judgment – his crinkly, slurry electric keyboard fills are as arresting as his cultivated romanticism on acoustic piano – fit perfectly jigsaw puzzle piece-like depending on the circumstances. On its own, Binney’s sculpted-out-of-stone tone can be heard at its flinty best on a tune such as “Astral Echo Poem”. Elsewhere he and Nachoff chew up or caress phrases like conjoined twins. Alternately stinging or smooth, the tenor saxophonist’s can angle out weighty Coleman Hawkins-like story telling on “Mind’s Ear 1” then turn around to spit out triplet snorts on “Mind’s Ear 2” backed with thick piano extensions.

Most indicative of Nachoff’s writing and playing is “Complimentary Opposites”. Built up from a hide-and-seek game between the composer’s Hawkins-like timbres with rococo-like snarls and split tones from the other saxophonist, the harsh interface takes place on top of calliope-like bounces from Mitchell’s Wurlitzer plus silky cymbal swishes and tap-dancing snare taps from Wollesen.

If there’s anything lacking in Flux it’s that this just released CD was recorded in 2012. Imagine how well the quartet must sound today.

-For The Whole Note November 2016