A Coincidence of Cats
The whimsical title threw this writer at first. Maybe pianist and composer Andy Adamson was referencing “cats” as in musicians. Probably not, but it doesn’t matter as the music is rhythmically complex, harmonic, precise, engaging, and just about anything but whimsical. Adamson and his quintet hail from the Ann Arbor-Detroit Michigan area, most having played in various configurations and genres. Four of the five hold degrees from The University of Michigan, as does this writer so there may be just a small connection at play here.
Adamson leads the classic jazz quintet with trumpet and saxophone on the front line, specifically Ross Huff (trumpet, flugelhorn), Dan Bennett (saxophone), Brennan Andes (bass) and Jonathan Taylor (drums). Adamson composed all six selections, most relatively recently although “Morning Star” dates to 1979. Adamson finds his inspiration in travel and in the natural world as gleaned by the titles, titular one along with “Sagres by the Sea,” “Hummingbird,” and the aforementioned “Morning Star” for example.
The quintet lifts off with rhythmically challenging title track, all in acoustic mode with Taylor frenetically driving the unit that features solos from the leader, an aggressive tenor turn from Bennett, a smoother, melodic take from Huff at least initially before he too takes a spirited flight. “Sagres by the Sea” begins with cymbals and piano flourishes conjuring waves before Huff on flugelhorn and Bennett on tenor set the melody leading to a stirring interplay where they each echo other, as if to reflect the repetitive tidal rhythms and occasional big wave. Yes, (pardon the term) but the music will wash all over you.
“Hummingbird” begins with a plodding pace from the rhythm section before the horns sweep in to lift the piece into a tricky start-stop cadence the melts away for restrained horn over Adamson’s bright chording and piano solo. At various points Bennett or Huff enter in soaring fashion, hence the title. “Lament” is rather obviously a ballad, and it highlights the delicate aspects of Adamson’s pianism. The horns create that distance feel of the star in the morning with elongated notes to the leader’s definitive chords on “Morning Star.” About a third in Huff enters self-assuredly, followed by a glistening sequence from Adamson and invigorating clusters from Bennett. The coffee must have been strong on this particular morning.
The closing piece “Triplet” is the most overt swinger here, imbued by Andes’ bubbling bassline, Taylor who stays in the pocket driving the leader’s rambling solo and then those by the free blowing Huff and Bennett. While this piece is the most “mainstream,” the personalities of the players, who lean more toward the aggressive side, is on full display, epitomized by Taylor’s energetic kit work. As strong as this track is, even with the sharply abrupt ending, it’s the visuals evoked in tune such as “Sagres by the Sea” and “Hummingbird” that best capture the imaginative bent of the group.
- Jim Hynes