Alto saxophonist Matt Criscuolo from New York has released a new album which was recorded last September at Carriage House Studios in Stamford, Connecticut. Criscuolo has studied with Dick Oatts and Walt Weiskopf.
His sixth album, “Headin’ Out”, includes four original tracks starting with the state-of-the-art Modern Jazz of “Enchanted” where he sometimes reminds me of the late great David S. Ware (circa 2003 with his fantastic album “Threads”). Supporting him on this free-flowing first tune and throughout the album is guitarist Tony Purrone who also did most of the arrangements. Purrone is probably best known for his work with the Heath Brothers and opens the Randy Weston composition “Little Niles” where he later has a burning solo. Here, the track has travelled a long road from its 1958 original bop recording to this expressive version with much aplomb and commitment.
“At Night” is another Criscuolo composition where the leader offers some fiery statements over a swinging background. Purrone has some fine Jimmy Ponder-like licks on this before the tune ends with what is probably the prompt awakening after a short night.
“Sippin’ at Bells”, written by a 20 year old Miles Davis in 1947 and recorded by the Miles Davis All Stars that same year with Charlie Parker, is also taken away from its bop roots to become a whirlwind affair with illuminating drum work by Ed Soph and the constant swing of bassist Preston Murphy. “Kharma at Dharma” is one of two Purrone compositions here and again comes along as a fleeting, unconventional performance. Full of spaciousness and open fields. His other song here, “R 5 10 Select”, is the first track with a little time to breathe, at least for the first four minutes. It changes tempo several times and is a fragmented cavalcade of notes. Almost made me dizzy.
So what’s the deal ballad-wise? Billy Strayhorn‘s “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing” features both Matt and Tony interpreting this standard with necessary respect and grace and Preston Murphy stays away from his otherwise very vigorous playing to show his tender side. A really nice rendition.
The album closes with two more Criscuolo compositions. Both “Centripetal” and “Renée’s Dream” (the latter written for his fiancée) are wonderful examples of the attack and determination of this exciting project.