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CD Review: Adam Larson “Listen with Your Eyes”

By Hrayr Attarian

Adam Larson Listen with Your Eyes

Adam Larson – Saxophone

Fabian Almazan – Keyboards, piano, and synths

Matt Clohesy – Electric bass

Jimmy Macbride – Drums

Saxophonist Adam Larson’s style is deeply rooted in the hard bop idiom, yet it is delightfully unique. Over the course of five releases as a leader, Larson has developed a singular and easily recognizable sound and has honed his skills as a composer and improviser. On the intriguing Listen with Your Eyes, he leads a quartet of old and new colleagues through seven of his boundary-pushing originals.

The warm and lyrical “Invisible Barriers” features a captivating and intricately crafted theme. Larson deconstructs and reshapes the exquisite melody in a logical and moving improvisation while his sidemen provide a crepuscular ambience. Pianist Fabian Almazan lets loose an eloquent and virtuosic solo that ebbs and flows with lithe elegance and inventive phrases.

On this album, more than before, Larson deftly utilizes an undercurrent of electric tones. In addition to Almazan’s prowess on synths and Rhodes, amply heard on the eerie and soulful “False Pageantry,” the quartet includes electric bassist Matt Clohesy. Clohesy anchors the group performance with his sinewy lines and takes center stage with a tuneful soliloquy on the undulating title track—a tender and emotive tune that features crystalline cascades of keys woven with soft, lilting saxophone statements.

The final member of the ensemble is Larson’s longtime collaborator, the expressive drummer Jimmy Macbride. He drives the passionate and energetic “Sleepers” with his propulsive beats and contributes to the intimate atmosphere of the mellifluous “Twenty-Something” with his understated percolations.

Larson showcases his mastery over his instrument as he goes from agile, meandering phrases on the above piece to blowing with gusto and swagger on the funky “Bright.” The uptempo composition is simultaneously soulful and complex—especially with Almazan’s resonant chords bouncing off bass’ and drums’ muscular vamps.

With Listen with Your Eyes, Larson has created his most mature and thrilling work to date. He has perfected his subtle balance of accessibility and inventiveness, remaining solidly in the mainstream while flirting with understated dissonance. All in all, Listen with Your Eyes is a nuanced record that impresses and satisfies.

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