By Hrayr Attarian
Javier Red’s Imagery Converter
Javier Red – Piano
Jake Wark – Tenor saxophone
Ben Dillinger – Bass
Gustavo Cortiñas – Drums
Chicago pianist Javier Red creates cerebral and stimulating music on his debut on Delmark, Ephemeral Certainties. The eight originals balance unfettered spontaneity with intricate harmonic constructs and individual expressions with a vibrant group sound. In addition, Red’s compositions seamlessly incorporate influences of the blues, twentieth-century Western classical elements, and free jazz.
Joining Red on the saxophone is the dynamic Jake Wark whose sinewy and passionate lines are often the emotive center of such tunes as the soulful “Minimal Expansion” and the tender “Suspension.” On the former, Wark wails with an expansive tone and fiery gusto. His improvisation delightfully contrasts with bassist Ben Dillinger’s lithe and eloquent solo. Red’s wistful and angular pianism, together with the band’s restless refrains, gives the performance its meandering, explorative character.
The intense “Saturation” opens with a contemplative and crystalline call-and-response duet between Red and Wark. While versatile drummer Gustavo Cortiñas drives the piece with his percolating beats, the exchanges between piano and saxophone grow more dissonant and ardent. Dillinger contributes darkly hued thumps to the rhythmic backdrop as the dialogue becomes simultaneously more fervent and provocative. A riotous ensemble repartee closes the track and the disc.
One of the most unique moments on this uniformly inventive and superb album is on the aforementioned “Suspension.” Red’s cascading notes shimmer darkly as he launches into a lyrical and wistful extemporization. Wark embellishes the melody with elegant mysticism while Dillinger and Cortiñas weave a dense and dramatic ambience with their intricate refrains.
Equally tense and cinematic is “Stretched Particle.” Its melancholic edge is maintained with Wark’s blustery and enthusiastic saxophone and Red’s pensive and circular chords. Cortiñas’ thunderous beats make for a perfect conclusion.
Red has named his quartet Imagery Converter, and the group does create sublime sonic abstractions. Ephemeral Certainties is absorbing and attractive thanks to its cohesive nature and sophisticated grace. Red’s creative vision and his synergy with his sidemen gives the record its superlative attributes.