An incurable ignorance initially caused me to remain perplexed in front of a sweet gift received by trumpet and flugelhorn player Brian Groder, whose music – believe it or not – I’d never met before extracting 2006’s Torque (Latham) from its sleeve. We’re talking about a record that was very well regarded in the noble quarters of the jazz megalopolis (looks like Downbeat had it winning a poll in 2007; that magazine is not read here but an award should count for something, one supposes). Needless to say the cat plays some fiendishly hole-punching phrases, which is all the more in evidence when your forward-looking associate is one Sam Rivers (on flute & saxes) and the rhythm section is both technically polished and powerfully built under the authority of bassist Doug Mathews and drummer Anthony Cole. In a word, Groder plus the Sam Rivers Trio.
The nominal leader epitomizes the kind of soloist that acts with the same precision of a cultivated glasscutter amidst unessential idealism and fake geopolitical revolutions. Translation: his ruptures are sharp as blades, getting from point A to point B with the necessary straightforwardness, no abstruse bullshit in sight. Just what’s really indispensable, nothing in addition, with a superlative instrumental command (OK, that was expected by players at this level of competence). The exchanges with Rivers – great solo from him in “Involution”, by the way – do emanate an elegiac scent of sorts sometimes (“Camouflages” comes to mind), although there’s usually less feverishness and more rationality at play throughout the CD. Certain striking parallelisms between the leader’s melodic cleverness and Mathews’ inspired arco lines are lyrically watertight, satisfying these grizzled ears in full. You know what? Downbeat was right – this is praiseworthy stuff.