Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Tucker brothers and two simpatico colleagues issue an enchanting debut disc

I don't know why "nine is the magic number," but the question takes second place behind the cogent musical answers offered on "Nine Is the Magic Number," a CD produced by brothers Nick Tucker, bass, and Joel Tucker, guitar.

Nick Tucker on the job [photo: Mark Sheldon]
Hearing the well-schooled Indianapolis natives in several concert settings with tenor saxophonist Sean Imboden and drummer Brian Yarde confirms the consistent evidence on this disc:  These 11 tracks, mostly originals, amount to a series of tight but roomy four-way conversations.

A pop sensibility shapes the quartet's performance of Imogen Heap's "Closing In," but on the whole there's no deviation from a fresh approach to small-group jazz that also extends the mainstream. That extension takes the form of structures that avoid the routine. Tunes stated in unison by guitar and sax are the norm; solos are imaginatively distributed across each performance.

There seems to be a ready interaction between written and improvised material. The level of soloing is inspired.  I was charmed by Nick Tucker's strong showing and Imboden's rangy solo in "Achilles."

Moodier pieces establish their characteristic atmosphere without being weighed down by overthinking. "I've Never Been Good with Goodbyes" has a fetching stop/start melodic line and a showcase solo for Joel Tucker. Every member of the group connects his ideas and melds them with the group product.

Often a piece will encompass a wide emotional range without ever coming close to falling apart. "Glassbreaker," which closes out the disc, is torrential at first; then it settles down, and you never suspect the musical equivalent of an attention-deficit disorder. It's typical of the contained world each of the tracks presents — a celebration of four young musicians feeling comfortable in their collective skin.