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Noah Preminger - Before the Rain (2011)

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By Pico

In 2008, then-21 year old tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger issued his debut CD Dry Bridge Road, one that made much of an impression. Fresh out of the New England Conservatory, Dry Bridge Road racked up recognition from publications like Jazztimes, Jazz Review and the Village Voice, where it won the Jazz Critics' Poll Best Debut Of The Year. Now twenty-four, Preminger has followed up with Before The Rain, an album where he astutely avoids the dreaded sophomore slump. Having spent the intervening years getting himself acclimated to the tussle and bustle of New York's vibrant jazz scene, the young tenor specialist has spent his time playing with such names as Cecil McBee and John McNeil in addition to leading his own group. Informed now not just with a good formal education, Preminger brings meaningful experience as a bandleader, composer and performer to Before The Rain.

Preminger put together a quartet for this record that can only be called top notch when there's the involvement of pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist John Hebert and drummer Matt Wilson. For Before The Rain, Preminger offers up a program of either tender ballads or Ornette-styled harmolodics. Preminger's style of sax lends itself especially well to the ballads, his deceptive sweet, delicate style greets close listeners with a great deal of complex, purposeful playing that throws off echoes of great tenormen from Hawkins to Webster to Lovano. The standard “Until The Real Thing Comes Along" displays those charms especially well; he caresses the melody, adding touches to it here and there to put his personal stamp on the tune that signals everyone this kid is well on his way to the elite club of tenor players.

When he steps “outside" he brings the same composed, laconic manner to these songs as he does for the ballads. “Quickening," “Abreaction," “K," and “Toy Dance" all fall into this avant-garde category, but while there might be some dissonance, there's no real abrasiveness that bumps up sharply against the ears. Kimbrough's “Quickening" is perhaps the most notable of the batch, for having a strongly defined theme that ignores time keeping entirely, and the astute soloing by Prminger, Kimbrough and Hebert. “Toy Dance" pays homage to Coleman more directly, since it's one of his songs, and the ensemble does a fine job with it: Kimbrough drops sparse chords at strategic points, Hebert maintains Ornette's mysterious melody while clamping down on a groove and Preminger is left free to ruminate, which he does with a vast amount of maturity and awareness. On this and one the other three “avant" tracks, Wilson expertly fills up tonal space with vigor, but always remaining behind the other players. He doesn't take solos on any of these tracks that I can recall, but he's often improvising busily underneath.

Though this album hardly ever gets above a mid-tempo pulse, Noah Preminger's understated mastery comes across loudly. With a deeply cultivated approach to his craft, he got the accolades on his first record for good reason, and I'm sure yet more are in store for him for this second one.

Before The Rain was released yesterday by Palmetto Records, his first for this label. Visit Noah's website here.

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