In his latest album, “The Passion of Color”, Rob Garcia manages to keep a toe in tradition while remaining experimental. This helps to give his music roots and listenability while he experiments with forms, melody and instrumentation. Pieces range from warm and romantic to frantic musical battles, always entertaining and engaging. Garcia's music seems fresh every time you hear it, with previously unheard nuances coming to the fore.
Pieces on this album range from the modern-bluesy “Still Standing Blues” to “The Painter”, a percussion solo piece evocative of a city on a hot day. Drum solos can be hard to read on a recording, but here Garcia does his job well. He is not just going wild, he is painting a scene with his set. In “The Still Standing Blues”, Garcia drops back to a slightly more traditional role, but he has by no means disappeared. Garcia sets the mood and brings tremendous focus to the group, while saxophonist Noah Preminger shines melodically.
The title song is a refreshing and light introduction to the album. Saxophonist Noah Preminger performs a wide-ranging solo over Joe Martin's bass ostinato. In keeping with the rest of the album's listenability, the solo puts the limelight on Martin's skill without losing form. The atmosphere of the piece is refreshing and light, creating a great first track for the album.
Rob Garcia is clearly the leader of this group, but he hardly keeps all the limelight for himself. In “The Caterpillar vs. The Butterfly, Preminger takes off again in a frantic solo with pianist Dan Tepfer contributing supportive drive-by melodic bits. Later on, Tepfer deftly comes out of the shadows with a melodic solo, his hands sometimes at melodic war. He shows off what a pianist can really do at his best.
In “The Garden's Poet” and “Purple Blush”, Garcia shows his pre-bop roots, with effortless melodies and a well integrated sound. “Purple Blush” does indeed have that warm feeling of a blush, with Tepfer's piano playing well of Joe Martin's solid bass. It is listenable but by no means boring with a romantic, small club feel. “The Garden's Poet” takes on a more sprightly affect as Tepfer and Preminger toss the melody back and forth.
Garcia's writing strikes a delicate balance, making a contemporary jazz album that is enjoyable and virtuosic. The ensemble is tight, talented and clearly knows how to play well together. Find “The Passion of Color” and Garcia's other albums at Brooklyn Underground Records. See the Rob Garcia 4 live Thursday, June 19 at Cornelia Street Cafe for his CD release party.