Pianist Mike Bardash stagger-steps his Polygon CD into existence with Brass Tacks, a sideways funk that soon gets pumped by Gene Torres' percolating bass work, trumpeter Kenyatta Beasley next taking over, saxist Deji Coker trailing behind, with Tony Lewis (drums) all the while measuring the home ground…until Bardash leaps back, surreally recapturing the quirky melody. This is fusion, y'all, but not the 70s kind you might be used to, more the sort of thing Gil Evans and Mike Brecker mighta worked up had Gil been around a bit longer and grabbed Mike for serious collaborative work. Evans was ever a cool-ass aficionado of multi-pointed synthesis with cinematic/quasi-classicalist tendencies while Mike always leaned hard core into jazz. The combination of the two, were Gil to restrain himself to quintet format instead of his favored big-band/orchestral mode, would have yielded a Polygon kinda thing.
You can feel the big band behind these guys. It isn't there, but you can feel it in almost every cut but especially when D's Blues, the third track, pops up. Impulse amplifies that with the horns tracking one another well out in front of everyone…and then a string section indeed does show up, though it could be a synth patch for all I know, uncredited either way and used as background coloration regardless, clouds sporadically wafting through fields. The emphasis is always on the melody, though, even when it's being shred to pieces in various songs.
The first four cuts are something of an intro to The Polygon Suite itself, which then crops up in seven movements, Kenny's Klave giving away the game, loaded with change-ups and even slurs within tempi. Baldash has said he never really writes for those irregularities, they just show up at the doorstep and force their way in. I believe him, they're too natural, even as startling as some can be, to be otherwise. They're also what marks his work distinctively, sometimes subtly, as in the slide into the piano solo here, sometimes in your face. Even And Then What, the ballad, is a tad quirky, a pensée written while the pianist-composer was looking over his shoulder, wondering what was approaching. No part of Polygon, however, gives any reason to lay back and relax, so best perhaps if'n ya trot down to Starbucks and get caffeinated first.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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