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Adam Meckler Quintet – Wander – Shifting Paradigm

Trumpeter Adam Meckler is on the move.

Adam Meckler Quintet – Wander [TrackList follows] – Shifting Paradigm 78:54 [4/23/16] ****:

(Adam Meckler – trumpet, Flugelhorn, producer; Nelson Devereaux – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone (tracks 2-9); Joe Mayo – tenor saxophone (track 1); Zacc Harris – guitar; Graydon Peterson – bass; Greg Schutte – drums)

Adam Meckler is among a handful of jazz artists who are helping put Minneapolis on the map as a jazz/improv scene worth a road trip. Meckler’s nine originals on his sophomore album, Wander, follow a progressive, explorative route and are peppered by elements from RnB, pop, indie rock and more. Groove is paramount on many cuts, as is impeccable melodicism, underlying lyricism, and rhythms which seem straightforward but often are not. Meckler (who also uses flugelhorn on some tracks) is joined by other Twin City jazz players. Nelson Devereaux is on tenor sax and soprano sax; the rhythm section comprises drummer Greg Schutte and bassist Graydon Peterson; Zacc Harris is on guitar; and tenor saxophonist Joe Mayo guests on the opening number.

Movement—going from destination to destination—is the CD’s clearest aesthetic connection. Meckler states, “I’ve spent a lot of time on the road over the last decade. That means leaving family and friends at home. While this can be difficult, travel often leads to discovery and discovery is the catalyst for new art.” The album’s title links Meckler’s viewpoint. It is taken from a line in a poem in J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: “Not all who wander are lost.” The other reason for the album name is because the record was taped live during three different nights at three different Twin City venues.

Wander proceeds with two persuasive pieces. First is the nine-minute title track, which starts in a quiet mood and gradually builds, from a rubato melody to a brighter groove (which moves from 4/4 to 7/4 time). There is a mix of composed and improvised sections. On the second tune, the eight-minute “The Sun Sets Slowly,” Peterson supplies a notable introductory bass solo. The band maintains a darting groove broken by variances in the phrases, which provides an off-kilter but never bothersome fluctuation. Harris showcases his hollow-body guitar around the six minute mark, as the horns temporarily settle back to give him space.

Meckler is well-read. Besides Tolkien, Meckler is also stimulated by Wisconsin author/poet Norbert Blei. The mid-tempo and satisfying “One Creaking Birch Tree” gets its title from one of Blei’s books about preserving nature and natural landscapes. The cut has some prominent dialogues between trumpet and sax. Meckler plans to continue his involvement with Blei’s works via a larger band project in 2017, so “One Creaking Birch Tree” might be considered a sneak peek of bigger things to come.

Personal and family components are interspersed in some tunes. The commanding, fast-paced and dynamic “The Call” is Meckler’s response to the phone call from his mother when she notified Meckler his father had passed away in 2008 from a fatal heart attack. There are portions which evoke stress and emotional crisis as well as parts which elicit remembrance, reflection and introspection. A clipped cadence runs through much of “The Call,” which furnishes a sometimes off-center inclination. At the opposite end of life’s spectrum is the joyful “Little Wild Child,” written while Meckler and his wife were awaiting the arrival of his soon-to-born son. The nearly nine-minute piece commences with a soft stride and steadily advances in tempo and activity, with flashes of energy which echo his son’s pre-natal disposition. Meckler says, “My son was incredibly active in the womb, which is not really surprising considering who his parents are.” Humor is replete on the jauntily -inclined “Drew’s Beard,” an upbeat and cheerful composition about a friend’s impressive facial hair. The CD concludes with another lengthy number, “Atomium Jones,” a multi-tiered ode to the museum in Brussels, Belgium built for the 1958 Expo. “The Atomium was an incredible sight and it was very fun to explore,” Meckler explains. The 335-foot tall edifice must have made an impression, since the 13-minute “Atomium Jones” is an increasingly boisterous workout where Harris’s power chords escalate the noise level, the arrangement flows upward and outward, then ebbs into bluesy territory, and then takes flight again. There are several memorable moments, including Schutte’s extended solo drum spotlight, where he proves minimal percussive gestures can have sizeable impact. The 79-minute Wander confirms creative modern jazz can be produced in places which are outside of customary jazz cities, in areas worth a visit. [Amazon lists only the MP3 compressed tracks at the moment…Ed.]

TrackList: Wander; The Sun Sets Slowly; One Creaking Birch Tree; The Call; Improvisation; Little Wild Child; Let’s Live; Drew’s Beard; Atomium Jules.

—Doug Simpson

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