"...[Great On Paper] has far more going for it than its jesting name implies ... the end result is substantial" — David R. Adler
David R. Adler wrote a lovely review of GREAT ON PAPER for the March 2016 issue of The New York City Jazz Record. Check out the full issue here as a .pdf (review on page 27), with the full review reposted below, courtesy of TNYCJR:
It’s a pleasure to report that Great on Paper, the collaborative quartet of tenor and soprano saxophonist Kevin Sun, pianist Isaac Wilson, bassist Simón Willson and drummer Robin Baytas, has far more going for it than its jesting name implies. The band’s eponymous debut includes just six tunes—two Sun originals, one from Wilson, another from Willson, a standard and a Messiaen interpretation. The 36 minutes go by fast and yet the end result is substantial.
Sun is a prolific transcriber who has blogged extensively about his study of everyone from Lester Young to Mark Turner. You hear that work pay off not only in the depth of his ideas but also in the warmth and fullness of his tenor tone. Wilson is also an inspired and technically adept soloist who knows when to give Sun room and when to create more for himself. He and Sun have a way of breathing together through every unison line and harmonic wrinkle. The agile, flowing swing and confident sound projection of Willson and Baytas also shows a strong musical bond.
The open feel and rhythmic tension of Sun’s opening “Winnings” and unique bebop derivation of his “Negative Bird” bring the group’s aesthetic intofocus. Willson’s slower “Slimy Toboggan”, which winds through exploratory rubato and builds intensity, finds Sun and Wilson manipulating unison pitch in a most unexpected way. Wilson’s “Torsion” establishes its layered complexity and groove from the first note.
But it is jam-session standby “I Hear a Rhapsody” that elicits the longest take, lending the album something like the arc of a live set. Here the band flexes some muscle in a convincing down-the-middle swing feel, with Willson getting a conclusive solo chorus as well. Sun’s time in the transcription shed with the likes of Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson and Bob Berg is well in evidence, though he’s clearly a player who sees the big picture and his evolving place within it.
—David R. Adler, The New York City Jazz Record