Review of Sunset Park Polyphony by Stuart Kremsky, IAJRC Journal Vol. 45. No. 2 - June 2012

The quarterly magazine of the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors

These days, you can hand musicians the score for a piece in "a 15-pulse grouping that can be heard/felt in 7 beats, with multiple layers of time expressed as five, three, and one," and they'll play the hell out of it. That's the structure of Shape One, the lead-off track on saxophonist David Bindman's Sunset Park Polyphony. The taut, expressive sextet that Bindman has assembled for the project includes old friends and new ones. Bindman is a member of the Brooklyn Sax Quartet, and with drummer royal hartigan, a frequent member of Fred Ho's bands. Bindman, hartigan, and bassist Wes Brown go way back, all the way to the late Seventies Talking Drums group. The three recorded together again in 1986 as part of the group Juba, and then in 1993 on an equally obscure royal hartigan release. Joining Bindman in the front line are new collaborators Frank London on trumpet and Reut Regev on trombone, and Art Hirahara is on piano. Bindman starts his descriptive liner notes by invoking the "polyphony of multiple languages, children playing, airplanes, traffic" and more in his Brooklyn neighborhood where he composed most of the music. These daily experiences translate into a fecund set of paths "to wander, to dance, to follow threads of imagination." Bindman's music is a highly individual blend that combines his sense of place with jazz structures and techniques, including solo passages, call and response sections and modes of accompaniment, plus his complex, largely Indian-derived rhythmic schemes. The results, as interpreted by this crack sextet, are never less than absorbing and challenging. As the music twists and turns, everyone gets their turn in the spotlight. The musicians rise to the occasion of Bindman's demanding multi-part compositions with passionate and consistently impressive solo work by all hands. While the entire band is gratifyingly attuned to the intricacies of the music, special mention should be made of the critical role played by the elegantly stylish drumming of the underrated royal hartigan. Ninety minutes is a lot of time to fill, but it's in the nature of Bindman's compositional style to keep you happy with what's happening at the moment while you're wondering where the music is going to head next. With the ensemble keeping the music lively and high-spirited, the time practically flashes by. Well worth hearing, again and again.