Adam Larson Band – ‘Listen With Your Eyes’ (2019)
Adam Larson’s debut for the Ropeadope label has the feel of a live album, and that’s not in any way a bad thing.
Listen With Your Eyes, his fifth release as band leader, is credited to the Adam Larson Band – and with good reason: Each of the players contribute mightily to these all-original compositions.
Larson, of course, has nothing to prove His 2015 album Selective Amnesia, made my year-ending best-albums list – then 2017’s Second City cemented Adam Larson as one of my favorite tenor sax players. Listen With Your Eyes finds Larson returning to the New York-based band who he has played steadily with for the last two years.
“Sleepers” is a passionate assault on the senses. Larson’s warm tenor sound is immediate, as it glides into the tight rhythm envelope of drummer Jimmy MacBride and electric bassist Matt Closhesy. Journeyman Fabian Almazan continues his trendof the last few years by playing on or leading some of my favorite jazz albums. Here on “Sleepers,” the dynamic shifts and chemistry is evident for the first note, through the middle drum solo to the stirring conclusion.
“False Pageantry” starts with a delicate sparring of Almazan’s electrics and Larson’s tenors. The groove is deep and the song jaunty. There is an unexpected treat, with the electronic interplay bouncing off the bass and the athletic drumming of MacBride. The song ranks as one of my favorites by Larson. “Invisible Barriers” glows with a slow burning intensity as Larson’s sax and Almazan lay a melodic foundation, which is then moved forward by Larson’s dark and expanding theme. The rhythm section throws a melodic curveball or two, yet the song is provocatively inspiring.
“Bright” is an engaging and direct tune. The radio-friendly arrangement belies solos by Larson and Almazan. It’s a dynamic shift from the preceding songsm yet still utterly enjoyable. The title track again shifts the mood. This ballad builds with intensity and a tension between Larson’s tenor sax and Almazan’s acoustic piano. MacBride and Clohesy help move the song to an even higher plane, with a building rhythm that peaks three-quarters of the way into the song. The denouement is just as rewarding.
At first, the final song on Listen With Your Eyes seems as if it’s an afterthought. On repeated listens, however, “Boom-Bap” really is another dynamic shift – almost an epilogue to a fine novel. And a funky and fine end it is to another stellar work by the Adam Larson Band.