Saxophonist Adam Larson Completes Trilogy Series On WITH LOVE, FROM NEW YORK Out Now

With this trio of trio albums Adam Larson has made a significant contribution to the chordless format.

By: Apr. 07, 2023
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Saxophonist Adam Larson Completes Trilogy Series On WITH LOVE, FROM NEW YORK Out Now

Saxophonist Adam Larson's With Love, From New York marks his eighth release as a leader and final installment in his series of trio albums recorded in 2021 and 2022, each featuring rhythm section mates who hail from cities important to his musical development: Chicago, his current home of Kansas City, and his former home of New York City. It serves as a punctuation mark on his flurry of recent activity, with first-call New York musicians Obed Calvaire and Matt Clohesy assisting with effortless elan on drums and bass. With Love, From New York is out today on Outside in Music.

"We played a few gigs together as a unit while I was in New York, and the way that their particular playing styles complimented one another was something that stuck with me," Larson explains about his bandmates on the album. "Obed's sound is very flexible and made it easy to tackle the many different ways that the record unwinds, compositionally. Through dozens of gigs with Matt with my projects at 55 Bar, he became my number one call for electric bass. I knew I wanted the best of both worlds on this final installment, and his electric playing on these tunes really does the vibe justice."

Distinctly, Larson's With Love, From Chicago calls upon his early musical markings. Though he was raised two hours outside of Chicago, Larson unveiled his love for the Windy City only after leaving it for New York. The lively melodies and bright-tempoed vibrance that make up Larson's Chicago installment are, therefore, an exploration of his early development as an artist. Returning with a reflection on his New York chapter, Larson continues with a similarly-charged yet stylistically distinct output on With Love, From New York.

Playing in an improvisational setting void of chords can be a double-edged sword for musicians. Without the additional harmonic context, a soloist may have more freedom to explore a wider range of melodic options; it can also, inevitably, create more textural accountability with certain musical choices; content which might otherwise be contributed by guitar, keys, or vibraphone.

Larson's wide compositional frame of reference is on display in the opener, "Aerial Landmasses", which evokes prog rock titans Animals As Leaders. Clohesy's electric bass stylings are a seminal ingredient here, and Larson's sinewy solo gives way to a metal-tinged tour from Calvaire which might surprise some listeners who may be more accustomed to his work in the drum chair with the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra.

An engaging motivic dialogue between saxophone and bass introduces "64 Squares (Searching For Fish)" before Larson sinks into a theme that is nearly through-composed (meaning melodies are continuously new material and non-repeating) other than a brief closing reference to the intro. The musical form recalls a compositional device that listeners familiar with Dave Brubeck's standard "In Your Own Sweet Way" might recognize. Clohesy's solo is a testament to his crystal clear sound and impeccable intonation on acoustic bass. Calvaire's accompaniment during the tenor solo displays his very personal way of playing across time - one of his hallmark attributes.

"Soar" is a linear, sequential, and logical melody over a breakbeat that almost recalls Aphex Twin or Squarepusher. Larson contributes what may be his strongest solo on the album here - a masterclass in range, timefeel and architecture - and an astonishing display of technical virtuosity to boot.

The halfway point of the record is a brief and refreshing musical non-sequitur, a shuffle called "Perspective" that shows that Larson hasn't turned his back on soulful sensibilities. It provides a lighthearted perspective, cleansing the listener's palate in such a way that it is effectively gratifying. "I took a chance on recording songs like 'Aerial Landmasses', 'Soar', and 'Perspective' without chords," Larson concedes, "but that's a testament to how much space and sound this trio can occupy."

"Moment Of Clarity" is a medium-up swinger, with some deft ensemble hits from Clohesy and Calvaire in the melody. Their simpatico shines here, with both parties creating rhythmic counterpoint while retaining a propulsive sense of swing that may recall Robert Hurst and Jeff "Tain" Watts. Calvaire brings us to the finish line with a solo over a clever vamp.

An air of introspection colors the penultimate track on With Love, From New York City, the aptly titled "Deception". The first act of deception occurs with an unexpected resolution to Eb major in the 8th measure of the tune, standing in stark contrast to what had heretofore been mostly stepwise bass motion. Larson breaks up the symmetry of the melody with an extra measure, as well, making for an unconventional 9-bar phrase. The more pensive aesthetic of the composition serves as a fitting showcase for Larson's unique tenor sound, which may be in part to his unorthodox double-lipped embouchure; while most saxophonists opt to cover their lower teeth with the lip and rest the top teeth on top of the mouthpiece, Larson opts to cover both upper and lower.

Much like on his previous trio release, With Love, From Chicago, Larson closes the album with fireworks on "Cellular Snacks", another rocker with a brighter harmonic sensibility brought forth by a torrent of major and suspended chords. Clohesy's pocket is deep, and inventive and relentless solos from saxophone and drums bring the date to a fitting end.

With this trio of trio albums - each serving unique flavors brought forth by disparate personnel and repertoire tailored to the ensemble - Adam Larson has made a significant contribution to the chordless format. With Love, From New York is a fitting denouement to the saga, capturing three of the jazz world's finest at the top of their individual and collective game.

With Love, From New York is out now and available on all streaming platforms.



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