For One Who Waits, the followup to guitarist Mitch Seidman’s Triangulation, begins with a series of undulating fills from drummer Claire Arenius – an early indication of the collaborative nature of the album. Seidman then adds a spritely riff, with bassist Jamie MacDonald slipping in like a late-arriving old pal, and their fizzy, familial jazz recording is underway.
“Movin’ On” is one of two tracks here composed by Arenius. MacDonald wrote “Out to Nowhere,” and Seidman adds three more originals to go with covers of tandem tunes by Jimmy Van Heusen (the ageless “Darn that Dream”) and band mentor Atilla Zoller (“A Thousand Dreams”).
As congenial as it all sounds, though, don’t get the idea that there’s no improvisational tension. “Movin’ On,” for instance, features a thrilling tangle between Seidman and MacDonald through its middle, and when Arenius finally bursts forward, it’s with all of the force of a long-held belief spoken for the very first time. She crackles and pops, even as Seidman and MacDonald parry, and then repeats her admonishments again. In the end, “Movin’ On” is as unnostalgic as it is propulsive.
“Hannah’s Dolphin,” the first Seidman original, finds the guitarist riding just in front of an impellent rhythm signature – but never peeking over his shoulder at the rising storm behind him. As Arenius and MacDonald push forward, Seidman is a steady, swinging center of gravity.
The subsequent Seidman composition, “Three,” finally allows this trio (and their panting listeners, no doubt) a chance to take a breath. While Arenius and MacDonald gentle insinuate themselves, with only a stick tap here or a gentle plucked bass string there, Seidman begins a color-filled rumination. There are fleeting moments of connection with his forebears – some Wes Montgomery, some Jim Hall, some Zoller – but before long, thanks to Seidman’s fluidity and command of the instrument, those essential components get lost in the portent of the moment.
Arenius’ title track continues that mood with an exploratory intro, before MacDonald finally sets the groove with a tick-tocking bass signature straight out of classic Dave Brubeck. Seidman then offers a blue-hued turn on the guitar, however, again taking the tune far afield of that initial comparison. Whereas “Three” worked in more impressionistic lyricism, “For One Who Waits” goes to a darker place. MacDonald offers a quietly effective solo, and Seidman and MacDonald then restate the initial bass cadence in tandem, before the guitarist returns to the song’s essential sense of twilight melancholy.
As for the cover tunes, Zoller’s “A Thousand Dreams” arrives like a whoosh of sea air, with a delicately constructed bossa nova rhythm and a carefree sense of fun. This is a tribute in the best sense of the word, in that it captures something beautifully personal yet remains inventive, even humorous. “Darn That Dream,” which again recalls at times the best of colorist Jim Hall, similarly finds new purchase in what could have been a rote restatement of a familiar theme. Seidman plays with plucky attitude through his lengthy turn, constructing things not just for a visceral response but making strong narrative sense of his solo.
At the same time, Seidman supports MacDonald on his subsequent composition “Out of Nowhere” with just as much aplomb – weaving in and around, offering just the right additional thought, matching him stride for stride and then falling back just in the nick of time. MacDonald’s concluding solo unfolds with the methodical inner logic of Lennie Tristano, until all of sudden – like a cellphone call that drops – it’s over.
For One Who Waits concludes with Seidman’s “Reflecting,” which provides one final surprise in that it neatly sidesteps the title’s expected atmosphere. Rather than offering a slightly morose send off, “Reflecting” might just be the most well-rounded composition here, in terms of emotional resonance. Seidman opens with a questioning tone, moves into a convulsive period of introspection and only then stops short to reminisce.
Of course, in between, there is one more lengthy moment in the spotlight for Arenius. Even until the end, this remains not a monologue but a lively conversation held amongst friends.