|Gregory Tardy and his band etch midlife testament. |
Though recorded in 2019, the release of this disc last month is timely, as the music's reflectiveness suits the universal pause button that Covid-19 has pressed for everyone. Now at his home base in Tennessee, the tenor saxophonist went into a Brooklyn studio with his quartet (Keith Brown, piano; Alexander Claffy, bass; Willie Jones III, drums) for a program of all originals, except for the standard "Everything Happens to Me." (Trumpeter Alex Norris guests on two of the eight selections.)
At 54, Tardy has behind him a wealth of collaborations in the wide jazz world, with associations including Elvin Jones, Andrew Hill, Tom Harrell, Nicholas Payton, and Bill Frisell. To cover the borrowing first, the bandleader exhibits his steady lyricism in "Everything Happens to Me," showing superb control in the suspenseful end of the bridge section and attaching a measured, but passionate, solo cadenza as the track concludes. The ironic perspective of the lyric is lightly worn.
The biblical reference in the opening track, "A Great Cloud of Witnesses," is brought forward by the positive stain of religious faith throughout the music. The groundedness of Tardy as man and musician is evident in the title track: "If Time Could Stand Still" is not swamped in nostalgia as the title might lead you to suspect, but rather generates a poised ballad feeling of taking stock, with a display of Tardy's pure sax tone communicating emotional commitment as well.
Further declarations of enduring values come with "Absolute Truth," a neo-bop venture with two horns in the front line, and a second partnering with the dazzling but never gaudy Norris in "The Message in the Miracle." The spiritual heritage with which Tardy identifies gets a punning salute in "I Swing Because I'm Happy," an effervescent piece whose momentum gets individual pushes from Brown's piano solo and Claffy's well-recorded follow-up. The inspiration for this project that Tardy gives explicitly to Willie Jones III is confirmed by the drummer's sensitivity throughout.