INNERrOUTe – Fourmation [TrackList follows] – Planet Arts PA301554, 68:27 [10/15/15] ****:

(Michael D’Agostino – drums, percussion, recording, mixing, mastering; Rick Savage – trumpet, Flugelhorn; Joe Vincent Tranchina – keyboard; Bill McCrossen – acoustic and electric fretless bass)

Fully improvised jazz can appear too chaotic and unstructured to the uninitiated. But the best musicians can find a way around seemingly obstructive limitations, and offer a sense of organization, harmonic development, even melody. That’s what the East Coast quartet christened INNERrOUTe has accomplished. As the group name implies, the foursome combine inner spirit with outbound collective communication. This 68-minute, 12-track outing is the outcome of a studio evening in early 2011 when the four INNERrOUTe members got together with no prior discussion, no rehearsal, no overdubbing, and commenced to do some creative performing and, most important, active listening. The instigator of this project is drummer Michael D’Agostino, who recruited likeminded players Rick Savage (trumpet, flugelhorn); bassist Bill McCrossen (on acoustic and electric fretless bass); and keyboardist Joe Vincent Tranchina. The result is the second INNERrOUTe record, Fourmation.

The ten-minute opener, “Consensual Motion,” has moments of complete freedom, where arco bass and plucked bass lines collide against colorful keyboards, and diverse rhythms juxtapose against trumpet. And yet, there is a perceptible groove, albeit one with a quickly changing attitude. There are also straight-ahead jazz components which listeners can relate with, although the quartet never stays put in a particular place for too long. There’s a broadening of the band’s spontaneity during the eclectically-charged “Home and Deranged,” where it’s obvious the musicians allow the music to progress in a natural way, often sitting out and experiencing what the others are doing, and then responding, opening doors for further inventiveness. This isn’t a case of disarray, although there is no guiding melody or lyrical center.

INNERrOUTe is capable of fast movements, but also can provide instances where beauty and delicacy slide forward, such as during the ethereal, concise “First Prayer,” where Savage’s echo-laden trumpet glides above D’Agostino’s glittering percussion, and McCrossen supplies supple single-note bass lines. Another cut which has a similar, slow sensibility is the appropriately-designated “Grace,” which traverses with an intermittent equilibrium, with underlying tension roiling but never enveloping the music.

Funk rises to the foreground on another brief piece, the mythology-marked “Morpheus Awakens,” based on the ancient Greek god of dreams. Tranchina is spotlighted on this tune, while the drums and bass have a fitful conversation. There’s a fusion feel which rides below the start of the title track, due to Tranchina’s electric keyboards, although that doesn’t hold for long, as INNERrOUTe heads into uncharted territory, never remaining in one specific direction, with ideas building up, settling, and rising again. The theme of proceeding into atypical pathways can also be heard on the aptly-titled, pun-derived “The Roadless Traveled.” Here, again, INNERrOUTe’s mutual, unconstrained interaction is the focus, with Savage’s trumpet front and center, Tranchina’s keyboards bubbling beneath, and the rhythm section furnishing a restless rhythm. Like some of the other numbers, this one fades out before it can achieve a definitive finish. The ensemble’s wit and humor lace through the concluding snippet, “innerrOUTeTAKE: Where’s One?,” which runs just under two minutes. There is something to be said about doing head/chorus/head jazz arrangements. But for those who embrace the never-to-be-repeated avenues of exploration, and are inclined toward in-the-moment inspiration, then INNERrOUTe is a band to find and appreciate.

TrackList: Consensual Motion; First Prayer; The Roadless Traveled; Morpheus Awakens; Slippery Slope; Sacred Eclipse; Home and Deranged; The Asking; Realms; Fourmation; Grace; innerrOUTeTAKE: Where’s One?.

—Doug Simpson