| KIND OF BLUE: Dusty York strikes a balance. |
[PROGRESSIVE JAZZ] Tenor-saxophonist Dusty York’s new album, Thoughts Take Flight, is a showcase of dynamic compositions that move between countless phrases—each with their own style, tempo and feel. It’s one more praiseworthy move for an artist who’s already attracted a heap of well-deserved buzz. In addition to his own music, York’s an advocate for pushing local jazz in new, inventive directions—primarily through his label, Diatic Records (like Portland’s own mini-Blue Note).
Thoughts Take Flight (which bears the subtitle a love and stress compound) fits in perfectly with that philosophy. Opening track “Prelude” begins with Justin Durrie’s upbeat yet leisurely bass matched with a catchy riff on York’s sax. It’s reminiscent of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and gives a happy-go-lucky first impression. But York is all about defying expectations—and at around the two-minute mark he opens the abstract floodgates, quickly launching into a frenetic, Coltrane-esque storm of quick notes and low growls. It’s a fitting intro, showing both extremes of York’s range.
Though he does have experimental tendencies, York shies away from the atonal and abrasive sounds characteristic of some avant-garde saxophonists. Instead, he returns to recognizable melodies you can almost wrap your hands around. “A Sick Man’s Dreams” and “Number Seven Silhouette” make use of the playful, inventive phrasing that makes York’s style so distinct. And though the Trio undoubtedly showcases York’s horn, drummer Russ Kleiner guides the compositions with equally spirited, diverse rhythms.
The final track, “Ken’s Cookie Palace,” is the album’s most consistently up-tempo number. Where other songs have condensed moments of pure velocity book-ended by lead-footedness, “Cookie Palace” keeps a sprinter’s pace nearly start to finish—during which Durrie and Kleiner unleash the innards of their bop sensibilities to form an awesome and feisty melodic whirlwind. It’s the kind of tune that makes you want to prowl—hunched over, fingers snapping—down an Upper West Side alley in search of Jets to rough up.
Thoughts Take Flight is not stodgy, forgettable atmosphere-jazz. Nor is it so cutting-edge that it’s damn near unlistenable. York’s jazz is fresh, imaginative and melodic—Portland couldn’t be luckier to have him as one of its own.
SEE IT: York celebrates the release of Thoughts Take Flight Saturday, April 19, at Design Counsel. 8 pm. $10. All ages.