Saltman Knowles – Return of the Composer – Pacific Coast Jazz PJ74100, 64:43 ****:
(Mark Saltman – doublebass, composer; William Knowles – piano, composer; Lori Williams Chisholm, wordless vocals; Jimmy “Junebug” Jackson – drums; Alvin Trask – trumpet; Robert Landham – saxes)
A guiding principle behind this attractive disc is the notion that too much modern jazz has departed from its roots as melodic, danceable music. Leaders Mark Saltman and William Knowles aim to redress what they perceive as a welter of unsingable, meandering, emptily virtuoso jazz littering today’s scene. Underscoring this premise is the presence of the remarkable Lori Williams Chisholm and her vocalized singing, which, while generally attractive, in the end begins to cloy somewhat. Perhaps it would’ve been better to have used her undoubted talents more sparingly.
Nevertheless, an attractive mood—sultry and slightly provocative—suffuses this disc, akin to but updated and more jazzy than Herb Alpert’s Brazil ’66, highlighted by the tropically swaying numbers “Bellport,” “A Study in Purple,” “Seeds and Deeds,” and “It’s Been a Mad Spring,” a Brazilian-sounding waltz. “Shalom and Salaam,” a clever mixing of Jewish and Arabic themes and approaches, also grabs one’s attention. A more somber tone creeps through “Disfavor” and “Pillar of Saltman,” two poignant numbers in ¾ time, and fully reveals itself in “Pain Management,” a sad recounting of a broken love affair and the only vocal with words.
The musicians, all seasoned pros, consistently display tight ensemble playing as they conjure a variety of moods. While not a blowing session, each musician gets a chance to strut his solo stuff, with pianist Knowles take some especially attractive solos on “Homeland” and “Pain Management.”
With this, their fifth disc as leaders, Saltman Knowles present music that is at once listenable, carefully crafted, and at times even adventurous.
TrackList: Homeland, Bellport, A Study in Purple, Shalom and Salaam, Disfavor, Seeds and Deeds, It’s Been a Mad Spring, Creepin’ Up, A Pillar of Saltman, Pain Management
– Jan P. Dennis