Everything good about Sun Rooms is present in the album’s first 30 seconds: Mike Reed rips off a tight snare fill and then leaps into a brassy ride pulse. Nate McBride’s arco bass and session leader Jason Adasiewicz enter and lock into intricate and muscular interplay. Groove, theme and mood are apparent immediately, but the interaction is deep and detailed. The tune (“Get In There”) is, in its four minutes, a compact tour de force of how to write and interpret a jazz composition, displaying all the deceptively simple hallmarks of the form: a relatively short, open-ended platform with enough room for harmonic, rhythmic and – increasingly – textural expansion.
It’s like this on every piece here, with the group bringing fluidity, then focusing on theme and overall shape. There are solos, but they emerge and recede organically from the pieces, not clumsily occurring at arranged points. While Reed is locked in and sensitive to every turn the group makes, McBride and Adasiewicz loosely trade supporting and lead roles. On “Overtones of China,” the pair share different parts of theme, making for some brilliant internal contrasts and dynamic shifts.
Along with the Sun Ra tune, the group interprets Duke Ellington’s “Warm Valley” and “Off My Back Jack,” by the little known pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali, but if you’re searching for a model for what Adasiewicz and company do, then it’s Andrew Hill. The late pianist and composer had a way of meshing off-kilter harmonies, odd themes and layers of rhythms in ingenious ways, original yet totally logical. You can hear this web-like structure on all the pieces here, but it’s on the Ali tune that some of the strongest proof for this connection shows. The trio moves seamlessly from the glistening, almost-electronic soundscape of the opening to the relaxed swing of the theme, then later transition out of Adasiewicz’s solo passage back to the theme, and end up in an improvised outro that suggests a myriad of directions.
The composition is full of possibilities, but the group limits itself to a few choice parts, giving it a potent blend of economy and urgency. And how often do you hear either of those on a jazz release these days? In an industry that sometimes seems engorged with luxury over quality, with reheatings of Bitches Brew overshadowing more vibrant new music, Sun Rooms is both a return to basics and a glimpse of what could be.