TROY ROBERTS — Green Lights (review)

TROY ROBERTS — Green Lights album cover Album · 2024 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
On "Green Lights," saxophonist and composer Troy Roberts embarks on a unique musical journey, illuminating the corridors of modern jazz with his vivid compositions and dynamic playing. His music draws a rich, emotive line through the map of his musical and geographical migrations, inviting the listener to connect with his personal experiences. This album, released under Toy Robot Music, reflects Roberts' artistic and personal journeys and marks the first time this gifted ensemble has recorded together under Roberts' leadership.

From the opening track, it's clear that "Green Lights" is based on conversational jazz between musicians who enjoy and respect each other. Roberts, alongside guitarist Paul Bollenback, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Jimmy MacBride, establishes a seamless dialogue that sounds telepathic. The ensemble's responsiveness and mutual intuition are the bedrock upon which this album is built.

"Green Lights" opens the album with a flourish. The synergy among the musicians is palpable, marked by Roberts' robust, expressive saxophone and the ensemble's crisp, fluid interaction. Bollenback's guitar, with its rich Fender Rhodes-like tone, and Patitucci's growling bass lines create a lush, rhythmic tapestry, setting the stage for an album that feels both explorative and grounded.

"The Question" and "By Your Side" are prime examples of the band's versatility, showcasing contemporary harmony and rhythm and a traditional jazz waltz, respectively. In "The Question," the ensemble skillfully navigates through the well-written composition, allowing Roberts to display his deft control over the tenor saxophone during his impressive solo. Meanwhile, "By Your Side" offers an emotive contrast, emphasizing lyrical solos and traditional jazz aesthetics. This diverse range of musical styles keeps the listener engaged and excited throughout the album.

"Solar Panels" is an up-tempo swing, based on a standard that allows the ensemble to weave through the progression with finesse and fervor. "Harry Brown" and "Jive Dumpling" further highlight the ensemble's chemistry and interactive playing. "Harry Brown" delves into modal jazz, while "Jive Dumpling" mixes modern and contemporary jazz for a playful, rhythmically intricate track that will surely put a smile on your face.

"Up To No Good" and "The Scotsman's Ballad" each offer different feels for the ensemble to express through. The former showcases modern jazz sensibility meshed with tight compositional structure, and the latter is a tender, profoundly emotive ballad highlighting Roberts' sensitivity and control. Ending with "Stretch Armstrong," the album revisits the roots of jazz in a straight-ahead swing that allows each musician to shine individually and, as a whole, bring the album to a compelling close.

"Green Lights" is an album built on camaraderie, resulting in an auditory journey that resonates with anyone who appreciates the beauty of skilled jazz musicianship and the stories it can tell.

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