Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble
Feat. Vijay Iyer
Ernest Dawkins – Saxophones, flute
Vijay Iyer – Piano
Junius Paul – Bass
Isaiah Spencer – Drums
Saxophonist and composer Ernest Dawkins has found a kindred spirit in pianist Vijay Iyer on the stimulating Transient Takes. The two artists have complementary approaches to improvisation, and together they have recorded an album that is intelligently a
The intense “Monkness and the Ethos” features Iyer’s crystalline chords that evolve with a touch of whimsy into an eloquent performance. Dawkins blows inventive and thrilling phrases with passionate energy and weaves them into the rhythmic intricacies of the piece. His saxophone honks and wails as it lets loose soaring notes that rise and fall with breathtaking agility. Bassist Junius Paul then concludes with a wistful and introspective solo.
The mood ranges from unfettered spontaneity to serene contemplation. “Simultaneous Realities of a Parallel Universe” is an ardent piece that opens with Dawkins playing two saxophones concurrently. His playing echoes and resonates over drummer Isaiah Spencer’s thunderous beats and Paul’s thumping bass. Iyer showcases his virtuosity with a lithe and fast-paced extemporization that brims with excitement and clever ideas. A riotous and thrilling conversation ensues among the band members, akin to four independent stream of consciousness monologues.
The dramatic “Infinite Wisdom of the Science of Sound” is a spiritual tune with a Zen-like serenity. Iyer’s somber chimes are framed carefully within silent pauses while Paul’s melancholic con arco lines set the stage for Dawkins’ mournful flute. Dawkins’ reverberating saxophone and Spencer’s rustling percussion alternates with Iyer’s tolling keys and Paul’s sparse pizzicato.
Dawkins and Iyer infuse the sublime music with some traditional motifs. “Sonny and Ornette,” for example, has a Caribbean feel much like saxophonist Sonny Rollins’ classic “St. Thomas.” Dawkins plays circular phrases that meander around his bandmates’ effervescent and infectious vamps. “South Side Breakdown,” meanwhile, is blues-drenched and highlights Iyer’s fluid and soulful pianism. Dawkins exhibits his signature fervor and gusto with a funky swagger.
Transient Takes is a provocative and captivating disc, and is as superb as any individual recording that Iyer or Dawkins has released. It is quite unique, as the men’s collaborative efforts and their shared vision give this work its singular style.
Reviewed by Hrayr Attarian