Monday, June 4, 2018

Jure Pukl - Doubtless (WHIRLWIND RECORDINGS 2018)

As New York-based saxophonist and composer Jure Pukl enthuses, Doubtless is pretty much a family project/album – an exuberant, high-spirited double-tenor quartet with wife Melissa Aldana plus close friends Joe Sanders (double bass) and Greg Hutchinson (drums). 

Both saxophonists have multifarious musical interests between them – Pukl’s vibrant four-piece release, Hybrid with pianist Matija Dedić, released last year on Whirlwind; and Aldana’s four albums as leader have garnered a raft of reviews praising her indubitable invention. 

Yet here is a creative circle so organically conjoined that the entire session was captured inside three hours, live in the studio in Jure Pukl’s home country of Slovenia, on the back of workshops and tour schedules.

Spontaneity is key. “It’s very improvised – and every number sounds different at each gig,” says Pukl. “Joe can change things so much, including time signatures, so we have to react in the moment. But it’s great to switch the vibe – we go for it, and the audience feel it. Once we’ve checked out the pieces, we then purposely let them go; and I’ve found so much liberation in this – we all become transformers for where the music wants to take us.” It’s clearly an artistic marriage made in heaven: “I don’t know many saxophone couples who like to perform together; but with me and Melissa, it’s the opposite – it feels natural, we have a similar tenor vocabulary, and that energy unites us. So in this quartet we create harmony, counterpoint… and Joe has an amazing harmonic ability, too, alongside his and Greg’s deep sense of rhythm. There’s so much happening – the sound is incredibly full.” 

That drive is perceptible in an album whose extemporary freedom is complemented by attractive melodic hooks – from the flowering, canonic phrases of ebullient 'Doubtless 'to a more lyrical horn partnership in elegantly waltzing 'Doves', albeit with sparky drum-and-bass undercurrent. Ornette Coleman’s lesser-known 'InterSong' was a pleasing find for Pukl, his captivatingly intuitive explorations with Aldana widening into sizzling restlessness; and Joe Sanders’ 'Eliote' (for his newborn son) is full of leaping bass figures, perky rhythms and extended tenor intervals. Trio piece 'Compassion' – Pukl’s tender expression of the need for worldly tolerance – is contrasted with tumbling, bass-pliant Elsewhere and the swooning, almost delirious phrases of 'Mind and Soul' (Pukl seeking the fine line between artistic intellect and heart). Slow, Latin-tinged tenor-and-bass duo 'Where Are You Coming From?' reinterprets a classically-inspired number from Hybrid, whilst 'Bad Year Good Year'’s subtly Tijuana-style opening heralds deliciously cool, shared tenor improv against percussive fervor. 

The album title, Doubtless, reflects Pukl’s sure faith in this amiable though energized collaboration, as well as recalling a period of intensely personal emotion: “This record was born around the time my mom was seriously sick (she’s fine now); but I trusted the universe that her health, and this album, would all come together. When you have someone close who is ill, you learn to think differently, to let go and trust – and this also came out in the recording. I have realised how important it is to play with people you love and respect – they love you back, and it takes the music to a higher level. It’s magic being on the road with these guys. What we create is something that people – not just jazz audiences – connect with. This band brings together everything that we are, and it works. It’s kinda amazing!” 

"​Under it’s guise of artless, improvised freedom,​ ​this is highly sophisticated music, requiring an impressive level of virtuosity from all concerned​."​ 
Jazz Views​ 

“An intense, artistic collaboration provoking organic and spontaneous exchanges... Reinventing, reinterpreting and rearranging... Masterful.” 
Radio REC

The Mind And The Soul
Where Are You Coming From?
Bad Year - Good Year

Jure Pukl - tenor saxophone
Melissa Aldana - tenor saxophone
Joe Sanders - upright bass
Gregory Hutchinson - drums

Recorded at RSL Studios, Novo Mesto, Slovenia
(February 27th 2017)
Engineered by Matej Grobec
Mixed and mastered by David Stoller & Jure Pukl at
The Samurai Hotel Recording Studios
Astoria, New York (September 2017)
Produced by Jure Pukl
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
Cover painting by Cecile McClorin Salvant
Album artwork graphic design by Sophie Moates