Ian O’Beirne – Glasswork (2014)

Making the labored sound simple must be one of the tallest orders for any jazz musician, but that seems to come naturally to Philadelphia-based saxophonist Ian O’Beirne. As a key member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, O’Beirne understands how many parts can come together to create a solid whole.

Honing his composing and arranging skills over the last several years for his live performances and for jazz orchestras, O’Beirne is set to introduce a complete presentation of his musical personality with Glasswork, his self-released debut. It’s the kind of intricately put-together record I usually hear of modern jazz musicians only after they’ve had at least a few warm-up albums under their belt first, but O’Beirne comes out of the gate a fully formed talent.

No, Glasswork doesn’t use its complexity to invoke chin stroking; he’s able to work his heady chord progressions and breezily pasting together competing ideas into a song in a way that pulls the listener in. Helping him attain that warmth is the guitar of Tim Wendel and the Fender Rhodes of Tim Brey, who help nudge the music out toward contemporary jazz with all the hallowed principles of good jazz kept intact; stylistically, it’s a close cousin to Torben Waldorff’s records. And Waldoff makes great records. O’Beirne’s alto and tenor saxes parallel those of Dave Binney and Donny McCaslin, respectively: very modern, very palatable and most importantly for his songs, very melodic.

It’s a record of the same, comely consistency throughout. “Glasswork” demonstrates right from the start O’Beirne’s detailed style of composition that reveals more on each listen, but in spite of the dense tempo, flows effortlessly; O’Beirne’s liquid sax expression is the key. “Halifax/Parallax” is an even better example of O’Beirne’s ability to lock together contrasting vignettes into a coherent piece. Its funky pulse anchored ably by acoustic bassist Kurt Kotheimer and drummer Matt Scarano by an extended bridge that goes in a different direction where O’Beirne solos with Brey shadowing him and countered at the end of every bar by Wendel. “Paradigm City” is structured in a similar fashion and is equally satisfying.

“Dreamwake” is an esoteric, pretty ballad in the mode of Wayne Shorter and boasts lyrical solos from the leader, Wendel and Kotheimer. The light patter behind “Epitaph” is the result of deft kit work by Scarano, and “Duel” is a lithe melody married to a dynamic rhythm.

I could go on, because each song is nearly as equally strong as every other. Glasswork is like its namesake, smooth and crystalline.

And a smashing start for Ian O’Beirne.

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The street date for Glasswork is January 21. Visit Ian O’Beirne’s website for more info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst 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. Contact him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews.com.