Slow Learner
Iluso Records IRCD 08

Established as a valuable part of such ensembles as Ideal Bread, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society and Nate Wooley’s sextet, Brooklyn-based multi-reedist Josh Sinton has decided to showcase his singular talents on the baritone saxophone with the help of a couple of old friends. Drummer Chad Taylor, who has worked with everyone from Cooper Moore to Rob Mazurek and bassist Jason Ajemian, associated with figures such as Dave Rempis and Tim Daisy first joined forces with Sinton during the 1990s in Chicago. Their sonic affiliation and rhythmic sophistication makes Slow Learner’s 10 tracks prime instances of an improvising trio’s art.

One clue to the trio’s group think is the band name. “Musicianer” was Sidney Bechet’s term for players so versatile that no music fazed them. The same could be said for these three. Take “Left-Side Paralysis” for instance. As Taylor drum smashes sets up a groove as solid as one propelled by James Brown’s backing bands, he’s aided by double bass slaps. Simultaneously Sinton’s swaying response supplely moves from altissimo squeals to bottom-feeding snarls, emphasizing every pitch vibrato from spetrofluctuation to yakkity-sax chirps. Taylor’s barrage of Mylar reverberations frame and contrast with Ajemian’s amiable guitar-like facility on “And Then It Came to Me...” as progress in the stop-time composition expands for pugnacious reed bellows midway between Leo “Mad Lad” Parker and Albert Ayler.

Another occasional baritonist, Gene Ammons, comes to mind on “Fail Beautiful”, one of the tracks that prove Musicianer can be as tender as it is tough. A moderato, low-voiced ballad, it finds Sinton’s timbres sleek as well as snarly. Feathery reed puffs are framed by Taylor’s distinctive mbira plucks on “Can't Really Say”; while Ajemian’s reflective Arco slides and Taylor’s drum resonations help position the bluesy, romantic saxophone romp that is “Sunday's Rehearsal”. Meantime a track like “Pork Bueno” exposes both of the trio’s strengths with shuddering rim shots and reed tongue-fluttering highlighting moving along a melody that is as malleable and curved as plasticine.

Overall with the careful blending of cymbal, skin, wood, string and reeds, vibrating, patterning, and pumping the stripped-down trio proves itself capable of any challenge. The only slow learner involved may be those who don’t quickly pick up on the band.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Outside (Today) 2. Can't Really Say 3. And Then It Came to Me... 4. Sunday's Rehearsal 5. Pediments 6. JiMmY 7. Evening Of Mourning (Ferguson Goddam) 8. Pork Bueno 9. Devoid of Form, Devoid Of Meaning 10. Left-Side Paralysis 10. Fail Beautiful

Personnel: Josh Sinton (baritone saxophone); Jason Ajemian (bass) and Chad Taylor (drums and percussion)