"...wonderfully complex and complete"
The November 2019 issue of The NYC Jazz Record features a review of Dana Saul's Ceiling by John Pietaro. Read the review on page 22 (full issue PDF here).
Ceiling, Dana Saul (Endectomorph Music)
The New York City Jazz Record, November 2019
Review by John Pietaro
With this release, pianist Dana Saul takes listeners on a tour through brilliantly shifting paths. By way of the tightly contrapuntal lines of tenor saxophonist Kevin Sun, trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, vibraphonist Patricia Brennan and the leader himself, the album opener, “Reflection in a Moving Surface”, is almost entirely built on such evocative parts entwined almost to the point of heterophony. Bassist Walter Stinson and drummer Matt Honor add to the counterpoint aptly, all the while carefully driving this work, but it’s Saul’s perpetual-motion arpeggiations, his insistent but open comping and gripping solo segments that serve as protagonist.
This level of fascinating interplay is maintained throughout the majority of the album, but there also is a strain of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” haunting the proceedings in the best possible way. Ceiling is comprised of free music, perhaps, but a sort aligned much more with modal jazz than the avant garde. Solos are relatively short but speak volumes (of the individual as well as the whole), particularly as the other voices are rarely far off, painting a backdrop as well as creating additional melodies, both improvised and arranged.
The title cut is the standout, with loose doubletime drumming, commenting, referring and reinventing the sounds with gorgeous subtlety. Vibraphone at times channels the wide, warmth of Milt Jackson but, layered into this riveting ensemble, dropped chords, rolls and reverberating runs glimmer and occasionally sting too.
Saul’s music requires a level of listener patience, all too rare in this day of rapid-fire media, but it almost immediately becomes compelling. O’Farrill’s improvisations build slowly, stretching aerial lines through a loose embouchure and whispery phrases unafraid to blend.
This ensemble is wonderfully complex and complete, something on naked display throughout but particularly on the title track. It just may turn out to be your best-spent 11 minutes, 37 seconds.