Fraternal bonds and a Blakey-ish bearing offer an earthy makeover to math music’s image on this release. Pianist Zaccai Curtis and bassist Luques Curtis team up with three Jazz Messenger mentors—saxophonist Donald Harrison, trumpeter Brian Lynch, and drummer Ralph Peterson—for a set that, while inspired and elevated by some algorithmic principles, moves and breathes with nature’s ease.
The scene of this recording was the Side Door Jazz Club in Connecticut, where this quintet set up shop on a winter’s night in 2018 and fed nine of Zaccai’s compositions to an appreciative crowd. From the sound of what was captured, it would seem that the audience ate it all up and had room for more. On the spiking “Three Points and a Sphere” opener, the group is egged on by the hoots and hollers of those listeners; and on the closer, “Sensei”—a feature for Peterson’s catalytic and combustible stick work—that same adulation fuels the percussive fires. In between the bookends, the music is no less worthy of praise. “Phi” explores the golden ratio with painterly lines spread over a “Poinciana” groove variant. “Parametric” encourages Afro-Cuban ideals to embrace bebop influences. “Torus,” with a reflective piano introduction that seems to wink at “A Child Is Born,” moves in both gleeful and glistening ways. And “Undefined” explores the art of kinesis in compelling fashion.
This music was commissioned by Chamber Music America and it is high-quality all the way, but nobody would dare call any of it highbrow. The Curtis Brothers may play to conceptual logic, but they play for the people. This isn’t stuffy, academic art. It’s music with true grit.