There’s nothing sinister or macabre about tenor saxophonist Asaf Yuria‘s new album Exorcisms, streaming at Spotify. More likely, it could be about shaking off the rust and the demons of the most hideous year on record with an inspired, energetic sextet. Yuria plays with a slightly smoky tone and writes translucent, purist tunes whose darkness is understated more often than not. He also has a welcome sense of humor.
He kicks off the album with The Bell Ringers, a catchy, swinging, modally-tinged early 60s Prestige-style number. Yuria takes a cheerily energetic solo; trumpeter Josh Evans descends from the clouds and spirals his way up again; drummer Jason Brown has fun chewing the scenery for a bit. It’s a strong opener.
Lotus Moon is a clave tune with bright horn harmonies that hint at New Orleans, with Evans flurrying while pianist Jeremy Manasia shifts toward a more latin attack, the bandleader pulling hard away from the center up to a wry false ending.
The band follow a resonantly harmonized series of waves as they gather steam in Wise Eyes. Yuria’s bluesiness gives way to bassist Ben Meigners’ spare incisions. Manasia ripples around with allusive disquiet; Brown’s surreal textures behind Yuria’s pensive solo are an imaginative touch.
Although there’s some growl and crush to kick off the album’s title track, it’s more McCoy Tyner than Mike Oldfield, with pulsing horns and perambulating solos from Yuria and trombonist Jonathan Voltzok before Manasia’s allusively fanged attack caps it off.
A percolating clave introduces lustrous horn interchanges which grow livelier as Out of the Mist motors along. Yuria prowls and choose his spots while the band edge further toward Brazil, Voltzok and Evans taking their time, Manasia again seizing the moment to hit the high-beams.
The energy bristles intensely with modal piano and suspenseful horn harmonies as the band launch into Bright Night Light Flight, Voltzok’s bustle receding for Yuria’s rise from carefree to gritty, Manasia bringing a sense of calm this time over Brown’s colorful accents.
The closing number is Mindful Breath, which with its hard-charging, conversational drive is far removed from meditative contemplation, although the band have a great time with it..