IN A BLUE MOOD
by Ron Weinstock
Nicholas Brust Frozen In Time
Frozen In Time
Fresh Sound Records
Nicholas Brust is part of the current New York scene. He attended the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he studied with Jerry Bergonzi, Frank Carlberg, Ran Blake, John McNeil, Donny McCaslin, and Miguel Zenón. Before that, he attended the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Walt Weiskopf, Harold Danko, and Chien-Kwan Lin. This young alto saxophonist, composer, and bandleader has other influences, including Michael Brecker, George Coleman, Robert Glasper, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Kenny Garrett, Roy Hargrove, Frank Strozier, and Bob Berg. On his first full album, Brust is backed Ben Eunson on guitar, Tuomo Uusitalo on piano, Josh Allen on bass, and Jay Sawyer on drums.
From the opening notes of “Work Ahead,” one is impressed by Brust’s imposing dexterity and sound, as he casts forth ingenious improvisations backed by a first-rate group. The opening track is performed at a breakneck pace, yet he spins his thoughtful ideas with apparent ease. Brust calls “Hearts and Spades” an attempt to draft a pop-jazz tune. It is a lovely ballad starting with a counterpoint line between piano and bass. Bassist Allen solos over Uusitalo’s chording before Brust’s own melodic blues-inflected ballad playing. Eunson solos over the ostinato while Sawyer’s light playing adds rhythmic accents. Another lovely performance is “Brooklyn Folk Song,” with more exquisite alto sax. “Frozen in Time” captures one’s attention with a bass riff that loops around with Brust and Eunson, jointly laying down the main melody.
“Adversity” is one of several compositions that Brust has written as a homage to the New York scene. Its theme is evocative a Woody Shaw’s compositions and features a scintillating guitar solo. Brust dazzles with the fluid development of ideas before the tempo changes to a crawl and sax and horn riff supporting Uusitalo’s solo. “Something Like a Storm” is another memorable performance with tempo changes, turbulent musical sections, and Brust’s use of dynamics in building the intensity in his solo. The final track, “A Shifting State,” is a drummer-less trio with Eunson and Allen. It has a catchy melody set against a shifting rhythmic framework that Allen’s bass provides.
“Frozen In Time‘ is an auspicious debut. Nicholas Brust has crafted ear-catching tunes, which are the foundation for his imaginative and skilled improvisations in the company of a first-rate band.