Adam Larson – Overdue Ovation (2013)

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At the beginning of this year Adam Larson was a young, uber-talented saxophonist and composer full of promise. Less then nine months into the year, he’s fulfilled much of that promise with two distinctly different releases.

Larson’s debut from January Simple Beauty introduced a musician who was still completing his Masters degree at the Manhattan School of Music, but this dynamic set of Larson originals with the saxophonist leading a quintet passed all the listening tests in this solid set of modern jazz with occasional fusion flourishes. Now he’s back again already with Overdue Ovation.

Overdue Ovation seems at first blush, a step back: Larson turned his jazz clock all the way back to the post-bop and be-bop periods, running counter to how you’d might expect a jazz guy to progress. But I quickly got over that reverse order of the history of jazz because he demonstrates a great command of the form. Moreover, he doesn’t do it with a millionth rendition of “Confirmation,” “Cherokee” or “Salt Peanuts,” but gets it done with mostly his own composing pen.

Larson wiped the slate clean from this first album by also completely changing out the backing personnel. An entirely acoustic quintet plucked from the NYC scene plays the tunes this time: Larson on saxes, Jay Anderson on bass, Gabe Medd on trumpet, Can Olgun on piano and Rodney Green behind the drums.

The exuberance and snap of bop blankets “This As Well,” a head-solos-head song, the template format for most of the tracks here. It becomes apparent right here that Larson has great chops for bop, his tenor sax is full of vigor and he makes it sound easy. “Indemnification Blues” spotlights the fluid trumpet delivery of Medd; Larson’s solo follows, which is also cooled down but very articulate. I also like “Prinzenpark” with its sophisticated melody, a catchy theme line played in sax-trumpet unison and shifting rhythms. “Layers” is even more adventurous: the rhythm takes odd pauses and restarts which presents a challenge to the horn players that add intrigue to their solos. Green puts a bow on it with his own assertive drum solo.

The Irving Berlin ditty “Remember” has a crisp swing and boasts some fine interplay between Larson and Medd and playful call-and-response involving all the band members with Green. “Overdue Ovation” is the titular song that sits apart from the rest of the album. A soul ballad, Larson reaches for his soprano sax on this one and plays with understated beauty. During part of his lead Olgun lays out, which ends up amplifying the impact, while Anderson carries the melody nicely on his own. Olgun and Medd follow with their own sensitive performances.

Larson didn’t spend too much time contemplating his next move after Simple Beauty, and Overdue Ovation proves the tenant of jazz that better jazz is made when it’s not thought over too much. Adam Larson plunged headfirst into older forms of jazz and by doing so, captured its spirit with the poise of an old vet.

‘Overdue Ovation’ will go on sale Sptember 18. Visit Adam Larson’s website for more info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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