Broken Shadows Credit: Wes Orshoski

Numerous intersecting lines connect the members of Broken Shadows, a new quartet devoted to the music of three saxophonists who emerged from Fort Worth, Texas: Ornette Coleman, Julius Hemphill, and Dewey Redman (the group also tackles “Song for Ché,” by bassist Charlie Haden, who worked with Coleman and Redman). Front-line saxophonists Tim Berne and Chris Speed worked fruitfully together in the remarkable quartet Bloodcount for much of the 90s; bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King have been playing together for nearly two decades in the Bad Plus; and King also plays in Speed’s fantastic trio. A few years ago the Bad Plus organized a project involving Berne that interpreted the music of the Coleman album that gives Broken Shadows its name. The earliest of all of these links extends back to the 70s: Hemphill was Berne’s key mentor, and instructed him so intensely that they eventually became inseparable cohorts. Later on, Berne paid homage to Hemphill’s compositions and reissued some of his music. These threads lay the groundwork for music that demands serious interplay, and on some live recordings of Broken Shadows’ early gigs it’s clear they’re taking advantage of that. On a version of Coleman’s iconic ballad “Lonely Woman” the rhythm section burrows hard into the tune’s hydroplaning harmonic anchor and levitating while the saxophonists pivot and dance around the tune’s sorrowful theme with the kind of assurance and intimacy that requires years of immersion in jazz performance. A version of Hemphill’s brilliant “Dogon A.D.” balances a frictive, weighty navigation of the music’s heady bass line and lurching drums with a tart, imploring melody that Berne and Speed trace with a masterful sweet-sour blend. While there’s a clear sense of respect for the material, the musicians don’t let reverence get in the way of their meticulously honed personalities, which allows listeners to glean the essence of the players within tunes that have become important part of jazz’s repertoire.   v