by Tom Haugen
Toy Robot, 2021
An aptly titled record, longtime friends Troy Roberts and Tim Jago bring their impressive resume and skills to this top notch effort, where Karl Florisson lends his acoustic bass prowess and Ben Vanderwal’s proficient drumming anchors the 9 originals.
“Chythm Ranges” starts with a flurry of brisk percussion, agile saxophone and flowing guitar work as a dynamic jazz template unfolds, and “Best Buddies” follows with a calmer pace of groove friendly sounds where the brass, guitars and percussion interact in graceful ways that benefit much from Florisson’s bass plucking as all 4 players contribute solos.
In the middle, “Zeena” is a sublime, brief moment of cautious instrumentation in 5/4 time, while “A New Porpoise” spends 7 minutes mesmerizing us with playful bop moments, gentle bouts of reflection and soulful sax from Roberts. “Pho Twenny”, one of the best tracks present, then shimmers with a warm spirit that’s nothing short of pretty in its ballad demeanor.
Approaching the end, “Halfway House In C Major”, which is based on Cole Porter’s “What is This Thing Called Love”, really showcases Roberts’ intricate skill on sax alongside Jago’s charming guitar lines in the classical-baroque style, and “Overlook” exits the listen quick, fast and in a hurry as exciting song craft amazes amid pulsating melodies and a furious rhythm section.
A somewhat coincidental record, all 4 musicians just happened to be in the same place during Covid lockdown, and the 2 days it took to lay these songs down captures their chemistry, finesse, and intensity superbly.