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CD Review: Paul Bedal, In Reverse

Written by Hrayr Attarian

Paul Bedal In Reverse

Paul Bedal –  Piano

Nick Mazzarella –  Alto Saxophone

Matt Ulery –  Bass

Charles Rumback –  Drums

Chicago-based, award-winning pianist Paul Bedal has garnered acclaim for the elegance of his writing and the creativity of his compositions. His third release as a leader, the cinematic and captivating In Reverse amply demonstrates these attributes—as well as hefty doses of thrilling spontaneity and suave intra-group synergy.

Crescendo-decrescendo collective refrains form the foundation of the dynamic “Fractal.” Over a percolating cadence Bedal lets loose fluid and circular phrases. These simultaneously contrast with and complement alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella’s hesitant and angular lines. Bassist Matt Ullery solos with agility and lyricism before the tune concludes on a subtly theatrical note.

On the contemplative ballad “Spunto,” Mazzarella peppers his cerebral extemporization with warm, fluttering tones and a touch of dissonance. As the ensemble exchanges coalesce into a vibrant and tense performance the piece takes on a more traditional bop-based sound. The momentum does not slack, however, with Bedal’s percussive chords and drummer Charles Rumback’s propulsive beats driving the music with boundless energy.

This intriguing camaraderie within the quartet is best heard on such tracks as the ethereal “Threnody.” The introspective tune overlaps Rumback’s graceful, almost melodic, drumming with Mazzarella’s pensive musings, Ullery’s reverberating poetry, and Bedal’s solemn and emotive pianism. The result is deep and sublime as well as edgy and dramatic.

There is plenty of passion on the album, particularly on the expansive “Janssen Ave.” Mazzarella’s bluesy and muscular sax spars with the loosely swinging rhythm trio. Bedal’s keys cascade with fervor and earthy intensity. The spirited vamps interlace and form a stimulating and dense sonic tapestry.  

Bedal continues to mature as a composer, bandleader and improviser. In Reverseis his most sophisticated and personal recording to date. Its inventiveness and accessibility are thanks to Bedal’s brilliance—and that of his like-minded sidemen. Like most of Bedal’s work, In Reverseis simultaneously provocative and engaging, moving and thoughtful.

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