I confess that Brian Groder wasn’t a name I was familiar with although the appearance sax player Sam Rivers on this record indicated he was someone to take seriously.
Having cut his musical teeth in
Opening with “Spellcast”, a smash-and-grab duet between Groder and drummer Anthony Cole, suggests a free-form fare is on the cards. Yet although the language in places has that late-50s angularity this is no nostalgic wig-out. Blending tight compositions with intricate duets gives a surprising variety and enables the quartet to move into a thoughtful and investigative space that holds the attention and certainly engages your toes as well as the brain.
Cole’s drumming is superb throughout, a rolling force that accentuates and supports as occasion demands; he’s exceptionally tasteful on the improvisation “Cross-Eyed”, matching and pushing
Quite how Sam Rivers now in his 80s keeps his chops and manages to sound so fresh and vital at his age is a mystery. But his tone is good and the gusto of his attack remains imaginative with no sign of slowing down.
Naturally enough, the star of the show is Groder who lets you know what he’s capable of without screaming or shouting about it. The warmth of the flugelhorn and his use of long melodic overtures is seductive, courting one’s attention in an altogether more subtle fashion than any outré blowing would achieve.
Capable of executing impressive hand-brake turns of pace and dynamics, Groder is clearly a formidable talent and no slouch when it comes to distilling that richness into his compositions. It’s this intelligent mixing of sanguine ensemble playing, sharp duets and expressive range which give this album its legs. Even repeated listening doesn’t dim its brightness and appeal. If you like your jazz brisk and tonally adventurous without losing melody or a sense of restraint, Torque has everything you could want.
You can here samples and buy this CD from here.