This review appears in the May 2012 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.
By David R. Adler
It takes a wealth of ideas and inspiration to fill two CDs, and saxophonist David Bindman justifies his large-canvas approach at every step on Sunset Park Polyphony. There are four substantial pieces on disc one, plus a six-part suite and two standalone pieces on disc two. Staying within 45 minutes on both discs, however, Bindman and his inspired sextet keep it lively and never lose focus.
The orchestration, for three horns, piano, bass and drums, is boundlessly colorful and indeed polyphonic: complex intersecting patterns give Bindman’s work a dissonant harmonic outline, but also a melodic allure. Bindman also draws on Indian and African rhythmic traditions to create irregular cycles or “pulse groupings,” which he explains in some detail in the liner notes. From these the music takes on a perpetually unresolved quality but also a strong element of groove and swing. It’s an adventurous sound, though not wholly “free” or “outside.”
Heard mainly on tenor sax, Bindman switches to soprano for the closing “RH Reprise,” a variant of disc one’s “Robeson House Echoes.” The leader also gives ample space to trumpeter Frank London, trombonist Reut Regev, pianist Art Hirahara, bassist Wes Brown and drummer royal hartigan (sic), a powerful lineup deployed to full advantage. hartigan’s hand-drumming solo on the title track is a marvel of textural richness. The solo flights of London and Regev, respectively, on “Singing Bird Melody” and “Singing Bird Reprise,” give disc two’s “Landings Suite” a sense of pacing and proportion.
In his notes, the composer reveals a political message that lies behind “Landings Suite.” Describing the growing social consciousness of a young fictional character called Eyepod, Bindman takes aim at “the current war being waged on humanity for the cause of capitalism/neocolonialism” — a hardline and one-dimensional view that is certainly his right to put forward, but somehow at odds with the subtlety of the music itself.