Founded by Jordi Pujol some 25 years ago Barcelona-based label Fresh Sound New Talent has real form when it comes to discovering young jazz musicians, particularly pianists. Brad Mehldau, Ethan Iverson, Robert Glasper and Joshua White are all part of the label’s history. Enter Brooklyn-based Richard Sears. Although he is still in the first phase of his career his credits are substantial to say the least: sideman to Joshua Redman, Ralph Alessi and, perhaps most impressively, the quartet led by drum legend Billy Hart. Which makes perfect sense when one considers the musical continuum between that band and the one Sears presents here.
Think of a quiet fire; sounds that smoulder rather than burn; intimacy as well as intensity. Sears favours careful chording rather than grandstand soloing, and his trio, Guilhem Flouzat (drums) and Martin Nevin (double bass), plus two guests, saxophonist Dayna Stephens and multi-instrumentalist Sam Gendel, perform with a glowing sensitivity that avoids the trap of being too understated for its own good. Largely down tempo the material has a lyricism that is as questioning, at times unsettling, as it is soothing, and Sears’ ability to craft melody and rhythm with ear-catching quirks is consistent throughout the set.
The best example is the wonderfully lopsided, lolling backbeat of ‘Goldfish’, which has a slippery ragga-calypso resonance that is danceable without necessarily fulfilling modern definitions of dance music. While the historic small groups of Shorter, Lloyd and Marsh are relevant to this work there is a distinct flavour of ‘90s FSNT artists such as the underrated Reid Anderson. A strong presence from a composer-improviser who has a strength of character to match his wealth of ideas.
Richard Sears, Guilhem Flouzat, Martin Nevin, Constant Stranger [Fresh Sound New Talent]