Dubious segues aside, there’s an intriguing jazz twinbill at Shapeshifter Lab in Gowanus tonight starting at 7 with some no doubt vigorous improvisation, saxophonists Jon Irabagon and Matt Bauder ripping it up with drummer Tomas Fujiwara. They’re followed at around 8 by New Zealand-based soprano saxophonist Jasmine Lovell-Smith and her vividly tuneful, cinematic jazz project, Towering Poppies. The lineup for this show includes Cat Toren on piano, Adam Hopkins on bass and Kate Gentile on drums; cover is $10.
Lovell-Smith’s debut album, Fortune Songs, with a different cast – Toren on piano, Russell Moore on trumpet, Patrick Reid on bass and Kate Pittman on drums – is streaming at Bandcamp. Lovell-Smith likes anthemic hooks, resonant long-tone harmonies and glistening, neoromantically-tinged piano. Tempos are on the slow side; the group maintains a close focus on interplay and emotional content, eschewing any kind of ostentatious soloing. A gentle, springlike atmosphere pervades this warmly thematic collection.
The opening track, Confidence (One) sets the tone with its low-key twin-horn theme over a muted, syncopated pulse – Pittman’s misterioso cymbal and snare work is just plain fantastic. A lively dancing theme eventually moves to the bass; sax and trumpet intertwine deftly as it winds out. The group follows that with a glimmering tone poem of sorts, Darkling I Listen, then Let Go Be Free, which develops the theme with a lingering Miles Davis gravitas over a carefully strolling, cleverly mutating pulse, Pittman again in the foreground with some neat brushwork.
Confidence (Two) refracts the album’s opening melody through shifting rhythms and a spare, somewhat disassembled arrangement, Lovell-Smith’s crystalline solo juxtaposed against a constantly mutating backdrop. After that, there’s a free interlude where individual instrumental voices prowl around while Lovell-Smith holds the center, edging toward an anthemic crescendo. Moore’s carefree but purposeful trumpet and then Lovell-Smith’s tenderly lyrical sax take centerstage in A Nest to Fly, anchored by Toren’s lowlit, sustained piano and Pittman’s increasingly triumphant drum flourishes.
Lover’s Knot takes its time rising from an uptight circular piano theme, Lovell-Smith finally introducing a welcome, gentle respite. The album’s last number, When the Tide is Right bounces along with yet more artful cymbal-and-snare work from Pittman, dancing steps from Toren and shiny terseness from the horns. This is an auspicious opportunity to get acquainted with a distinctive new voice in jazz composition and her simpatico cast.