My favorite overlooked trumpeter is New York veteran John McNeil, a wry, witty player who adds forward-looking accents to the language of west-coast jazz. Lately he’s found simpatico partners half his age—saxophonist Jeremy Udden, bassist Aryeh Kobrinsky, and drummer Anthony Pinciotti—in the quartet Hush Point. Last month they dropped their third album, Hush Point III (Sunnyside), on which they sound more confident and intimate than ever—they seem to be able to anticipate one another’s moves via some sort of musical telepathy. Hush Point’s version of jazz, while providing a perfect showcase for solos, is rooted in an old-school ensemble mentality—and few experiences in music give me more pleasure than hearing two (or more) skilled improvisers tease out sophisticated melodies together, exploiting their knowledge of harmony to glide across a tightrope without getting tangled up.
In many ways that’s the modus operandi of Hush Point. Kobrinsky and Pinciotti usually lay low, leaving the focus on the front line while they provide a gentle, swinging churn—springy walking lines and tight, propulsive clusters from Kobrinsky and bouncy, restrained rhythms from Pinciotti, who mostly sticks to brushes on his snare, adding well-chosen cymbal accents and tom interjections. McNeil and Udden work together more often the than one of them sits out, playing clean melodies that are pregnant with force but lighter than air. Their lines dance elegantly around each other, as though they’ve been partners forever. Sometimes the music demonstrates in subtle ways that McNeil and Udden are anything but old-fashioned—it opens up rhythmically, the improvisations tilt toward abstraction, and the harmonies embrace dissonance. The best thing about this music, though, is that it uses spontaneous interaction on the highest level to evoke a vibe that suits the name “Hush Point.” It triggers the pleasure centers that make jazz so wonderful to get lost in. Below you can check out one of the album’s jauntiest tunes, Kobrinsky’s charged, jubilant “It’s a Pocketbook.”
Carolin Widman/Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Mendelssohn Bartholdy/Schumann (ECM)
Awalom Gebremariam, Desdes (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Matthew Shipp Trio, Piano Song (Thirsty Ear)
John Raymond & Real Feels, Live Vol. 1 (Shifting Paradigm)
Okkyung Lee & Christian Marclay, Amalgam (Northern Spy)