In times of establishment-induced burnout for many of us, it would be a blatant lie to tell that a player’s technical proficiency is at present a primary concern for yours truly. It’s not. Of late, I’m more drawn to sounds putting the brain in direct contact with alternative realms, not necessarily associated with ordinary logic or “enthusiasm” – for lack of a better word – or even with the rekindling of ideals, the first constituents to waver dangerously in a desperately tired individual.
But jazz, when organized in such a way as to exalt the human qualities and intellect of the performers, always offers unforeseen rays of sunshine in comfortless periods. A genuine wake-up call came from composer and drummer Devin Gray, brilliantly escorted here by Ralph Alessi (trumpet) and Angelica Sanchez (piano). Melt All The Guns is an astutely succinct album, its five tracks lasting exactly enough to articulate relevant concepts not contaminated by routines. A response to the ever-worsening plague of gun violence, the music of this trio shows a will to get out of the idle silence of a mere observer through sharp phrasing, chordal lucidity and unwonted kinetics.
The cogency emerging from the interplay is striking. The sound is lean, potent at a conceptual level, the musicians expanding the rules of counterpoint without superfluous mannerisms. One raises the head to acknowledge the unity; gives credit to Alessi’s virtuosity while noticing that Sanchez is playing parts that glorify those evolutions. The colors of Gray’s drums complete a refined timbral alliance, his expertise in producing instant polyrhythmic arrangements enhancing the compositional meanings. In the end, either for the not excessive length of the whole, or for the great amount of cues that deserve further investigation, the instinct suggests to listen again immediately, and continue from there. In this room, the process has been going on for two days now. I didn’t want to commit, but Gray, Alessi and Sanchez set a superb trap, catching this grumpy old man with his guard down.