Saxophonist Troy Roberts lives up to his reputation as one of the leading young saxophonists on the scene today. A regular member of The Jeff “Tain” Watts Quartet, The Jeff “Tain” Watts Blue 5, and the newest member of Joey DeFrancesco’s new quartet, The People. Roberts’ seventh record as a leader, Tales & Tones (Inner Circle Music) is smokin'.
Nine songs adorn this new offering, and the ensemble sports a who’s, who of today’s jazz greats including Silvano Monasterios on piano, Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums together with longtime friend on bass, Robert Hurst. The instinctive dynamism from this ensemble is profound as Troy Roberts puts his pen to the paper and challenges his fellow musicians with creative, and well-conceived ideas. In their hands these musicians put forth depth and clarity of steadfast moods and tonal colors. The tempo of each song is varied, from swingin hardness to soft playful introspection. Offering the listener deliberate, yet vivid rhythmic journey’s through Roberts visionary ideas. Tales & Tones focuses on the chronicle aspect of Roberts’ playing while it also highlights his ability with reed instruments.
The soundscape traverses, an almost patchwork of the most beautiful quilt you have ever seen. Stitched together with plaintive reflective pieces such as “Rivera Mountain” where Watts shows his mastery to create time, space and texture while Hurst creates the connection of sound and movement with his supportive, warm sound. Roberts reacts to the nuances and push and pull created by Watts and Hurst. Pianist Monasterios, presents a laid back buoyant touch that deepens the beauty of Roberts soprano solo. The ensemble is supportive of the overall group sound, each understanding the partnership of the journey. I was especially taken with Billy Strayhorn’s “Take The ‘A’ Train,” the ensemble kicks off with an almost train sound calling the listener aboard, with creative embellishments to the melody; the group truly makes this their own unique take. Filled with swinging tempo changes, it’s a narrative to how well-worn standards such as this can still be given a freshened life while still showing respect. “Cotu Chi, Chi, Chi,” a Roberts original displays mature finesse, giving the ensemble an opportunity to open up the throttle and exhibit the restrained gravitas of seasoned players that makes jazz a prime listen. In the hands of this ensemble the high paced, high flying tune is bold and Roberts sound is big, brazen and focused. With no hesitation, he expresses and builds his solo with glowing dynamism.
A group of players each in their own careers, known to be robust players – now coming together, offer a deeper grasp of sound. They interlock so tightly, yet so respectfully you, instantly recognize the comradery and care of the journey together, which creates a depth and breadth of the experience. Well done, highly recommended listen.