It can be tough for bassists to establish themselves as bandleaders in the jazz world—their largest role is more often to trace the music’s harmonic patterns and help propel it forward. But Peter Brendler adroitly accomplishes all of these things on his recent debut as a leader, Outside the Line (Posi-Tone), a brisk quartet outing that swings with the power of a semi. The Baltimore native went through a pretty orthodox jazz education (ca. the 21st century), studying at Berklee, earning a masters at the Manhattan School of Music, and learning under the tutelage of mainstream heavies like Dave Liebman, Garry Dial, and Hal Crook, among others.
I first heard Brendler on Foxy (Hot Cup), the revelatory Jon Irabagon trio session with drummer Barry Altschul that embraced the Sonny Rollins classic “Doxy” as an album-length reference point. He also turned up last year on a duo album with guitarist John Abercrombie called The Angle Blow (Steeplechase). The bassist seems to announce certain aesthetic prerogatives with the players he’s surrounded himself with on Outside the Line, a savvy mixture of inside and out cats who work together very well under his guidance. The front line features tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, a sturdy player from Cleveland who often works in the hothouse hard-bop lab of Smalls, and trumpeter Peter Evans, the freakishly skilled and imaginative horn player best known for his free-improv work. The band is rounded out by drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, a flexible percussionist who can play against time as easily as he keeps it.
Most of the dozen pieces are attractive originals that muck up the lines between driving bebop, classic 50s hard bop, and the current mainstream sound of the New York scene. A piece like the bossa-tinged “Blanket Statement” uses an elegant, twisting melody delivered in tart unison lines by the horns, setting the table for a series of extended solos, each assured, bracing, and committed to pushing the tune forward. But my favorite moments are when the group pushes against the strictures of the form, a practice almost guaranteed by the participation of Evans. The group delivers a raucous take on the Ornette Coleman classic “Una Mas Bonita,” but despite the similar instrumentation of the Coleman group that first immortalized the tune, this band carves out its own turf, voicing its own tones and phrasing and playing with the tempo and feel as easily as turning a knob. The album provides a masterful clinic on inside-out jazz, embracing the music’s fundamentals while frequently leaving its conventions and cliches in a dusty pile in the corner. Below you can check out “Pharmacology,” an original characteristic of Brendler’s agile, classy sensibility.
Mojave 3, Excuses for Travellers (4AD)
Mitchell Akiyama, Temporary Music (Raster-Noton)
Håvard Stubø Quartet, Way Up (Way Down) (Bolage)
Aaron Roche, Blur My Eyes (New Amsterdam)
Pete Robbins Transatlantic Quartet, Live in Basel (Hate Laugh Music)