This review appears in the February 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.
Twice Through the Wall (ind.)
By David R. Adler
Twice Through the Wall, the second offering from altoist Curtis Macdonald, is an EP with a running time of just 20 minutes. Far from hurrying through it, Macdonald paces himself, devoting the first two minutes of the opening “Social Inheritance” to a drum solo intro from Adam Jackson. Ensemble-wise, the language picks up right where Community Immunity, the leader’s excellent 2011 debut, left off. Most of the same players are heard, although Jackson, taking the place of Greg Ritchie, is easily a standout on the opener and the two remaining pieces.
On the closing “Physical Memory” is it pianist David Virelles who provides a minute-long solo intro. Working with meditative and spiraling cross-rhythms, Virelles sets up a groove ever more fractured and tumultuous once Jackson and bassist Chris Tordini join in. There’s a gut-level energy, on this as well as “Social Inheritance,” that defines Macdonald’s rhythm section, Virelles very much included.
Macdonald and tenor saxophonist Jeremy Viner pair nicely throughout, getting their horns around intricate unison melodies and presenting widely contrasting solo voices. Macdonald tends to be lighter, more vulnerable, reaching high enough in the alto’s range to sound like a soprano on “Comic Fortress,” the middle selection. Viner is grittier, more immersed in the Coltrane/Liebman/Lovano side of things. His eruptive solo toward the end of “Physical Memory” is what brings the piece to peak intensity.
Jackson lends a strong Caribbean flavor to “Comic Fortress” with every subtle drum-head inflection and polyrhythmic aside, transforming a trio feature for Macdonald’s alto sax into a compelling full-band statement. With no chordal backing Macdonald is set free. But rather than stretching wildly, he focuses on the lyrical composition at hand and the astute trio conversation it prompts, right up to the hip ascending alto/bass figure that ends it.