Jazz CD Reviews

Noah Preminger – Before The Rain – Palmetto

Noah Preminger’s sophomore album offers a glimpse of the continued possibilities for the genre as a whole.

Published on April 13, 2011

Noah Preminger  –  Before The Rain – Palmetto

Noah Preminger  –  Before The Rain – Palmetto OTL 140, 50:40 ****:

(Noah Preminger – tenor sax; Frank Kimbrough – piano; Matt Wilson – drums; John Hebert – bass)

In an era where more and more up and coming jazz players emerge with chops, a deep sense of the tradition, and yet no sense of where they themselves have to go, Before The Rain offers a glimpse of the genre’s continued possibility. Tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger plays with a pared-down naturalism—allowing him to make music that is simultaneously accessible and complex.  He is a rare example of an artist able to create work equally of interest to his peers and newcomers.

Others have noticed. Preminger’s last album, Dry Bridge Road, received Village Voice’s Best Jazz Debut Album in 2008. The Jazz Journalists Association nominated him for Best Up and Coming Jazz Artist of 2009. 

On Before The Rain, Preminger leads his group with the confidence of a more veteran performer—the full sound of his horn anchoring each song and allowing the other players greater range of expression. The quartet plays with the immediacy of free jazz, yet the songs feel tightly arranged and spare, at times dropping down to a duet or trio punctuated with only a short phrase here and there from the other players. The album’s production leaves plenty of room for each instrument to be heard fully and appreciated within its own context.

Preminger clearly conceived of the album as a whole. He avoids a recording that feels like a mere collection of melodies and solos presented with almost business like efficiency. Instead songs flow into the next with the length and the instrumentation of each piece changing to best suit the mood and keep the listener engaged. 

The playing from the rhythm section is superb throughout, mostly because they are freed from holding down the groove and instead charged with playing melodically. The always-excellent Matt Wilson appears only as a flurry, making full use of the many colors present in the drum set and never stops moving, even when playing quiet and low. John Hebert mostly uses the bass as a means of commenting on, emphasizing the playing around him, or contributing his own melody. Kimbrough plays the piano with considerable restraint and blends so well that one could often mistake him as part of the playing of the instrument he supports or compliments.

Preminger opens with the Rodgers and Hart show tune “Where or When,” first introducing just sax and piano, playing only a short solo and then ending with bowed bass and drums that lead into the next song. Preminger plays the ballad beautifully straight, his tenor breathy and smooth, fit for a traditionalist. With his solo he bursts forth with a several dissonant lines and gives a clear sense he’s not interested in playing only inside or safely.

This contrast continues through the rest of the songs, following “Where or When” with one of two compositions from his pianist Frank Kimbrough, “Quickening,” reminiscent of Ornette Coleman—who also has his tune “Toy Dance” featured. Preminger contributes several of his own compositions, all of which reflect his excellent sense of balance between the difficult and the satisfying. 

Where or When
Before The Rain
Until The Real Thing Comes Along
Toy Dance

— Robin Margolis

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