Jeff Cosgrove, Frank Kimbrough, Martin Wind – Conversations With Owls (2015)

Rising jazz star Jeff Cosgrove joins veteran bandleaders and first-call sidemen Frank Kimbrough and Martin Wind in uncovering yet another facet of Cosgrove’s flair for challenging jazz. Like his prior recording project, the drummer is placed in a trio setting involving a pianist and bassist. But as Alternating Current highlighted the spontaneous music-making of Cosgrove with free jazz all-stars Matthew Shipp and William Parker, Conversations With Owls (now on sale by Grizzley Music) is structured around a co-led effort that underscores a high spirit of collaboration around some imaginative arrangements.

Taking in the open-ended, sensitive “The Owls,” where Cosgrove’s drum kit serves as a third conduit for emotion, it’s clear that the drummer is carrying on the legacy of his last mentor Paul Motian better than anyone is right now. Kimbrough and Wind deliver their notes with poignancy and the pauses between the notes with the same hushed passion. A bass solo ushers in “Stacks of Stars,” as unconventional and unpredictable as any I’ve heard in some time, and Cosgrove’s cymbals immediately connects to its unpredictable vibe. Kimbrough’s fractured notes gain momentum and evolve into a defined groove.

“The Shimmer” is relatively short but also skittish, especially on the part of Cosgrove, who even then maintains a light touch, always leaving space unfilled as Kimbrough goes at his own, unhurried pace.

Kimbrough’s facility for tapered angularity — at times sounding akin to the incomparable Shipp — bolsters the beauty to George and Ira Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy,” supported by a rhythm section that is likewise playing only the essential parts, leaving the listener to fill in the blanks in their own minds. “My Favorite Things” is another jazz standard that’s been done every way imaginable yet these three again find a different approach that’s also compelling. Turning it into a pensive, dark ballad, Wind locks in on an up-and-down repeating figure while Kimbrough takes his time revealing the true melody of the song. Once he reveals his intentions, Wind moves on to a harmonic counterpoint.

Conversations With Owls isn’t really about birds, it’s about cats, and these cats are having musical conversations that are on a higher plane than most.

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