Dan Cray – Piano
Dayna Stephens – Tenor saxophone
Clark Sommers – Bass
Mark Ferber – Drums
Outside In marks Dan Cray’s second release on Origin Records. Once based in Chicago, Cray now resides in Brooklyn and has returned to the studio to record music inspired by his travels throughout Big Sur and the Sierra Mountains. Recorded in New York, Cray has set out to create music inspired by nature’s natural ambiance and inner peace.
The album opens with an original composition by Cray, “Small Sir,” and is initiated by a delightfully restless piano figure. Once the rest of the rhythm section enters, saxophonist Dayna Stephens offers a beautifully haunting statement of the melody. This gradually makes way for a wonderfully stated solo by Cray, which is a climactic, collective improvisation that brings the composition to a dynamic end. After ending on the high point of “Small Sir,” there is an immediate release in the beautiful ballad that follows.
“Where Springs” is another original composition, which displays Cray’s ability to compose with telling lyricism. Also front and center on this track is the cohesive sound of Clark Sommers on bass and Mark Ferber’s drums. The two are extremely unified in their musical decision-making in a way that enhances and serves the beauty of the composition.
The recording continues on with a unique approach to a couple of jazz standards, “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing,” which was originally composed by Billy Strayhorn, and “Oblivion,” a less recorded Bud Powell composition. Though not an original by Cray, the individuality of each musician remains on full display throughout both tracks.
“Outside In,” the title track and Cray original, was a standout, summing up the sound of the entire project, while offering standout solos from Stephens on tenor sax and Cray on piano.
The album concludes with the group’s refreshing take on the Jimmy McHugh/Harold Adamson standard, “Where Are You?”
Thanks to the thoughtful interpretation of each musician, this project truly offers the kind of serenity one can only find in nature’s backdrop. As a result, the music on this recording affords the listener the same kind of inner peace, wherever you are listening to it.