"The Ideal Bread" Bagatellen.com review by Clifford Allen
Ideal Bread is a quartet consisting of baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton (a former Chicagoan who studied with Allan Chase, Ari Brown, and Ken Vandermark), trumpeter Kirk Knuffke, bassist Reuben Radding and Boston-based drummer Tomas Fujiwara. Their modus operandi is to explore the compositions of Steve Lacy, though unlike other Lacy tributes – such as those by straight-hornmen Joe Giardullo and Jurg Wickihalder – there is no soprano saxophone present. After all, there’s a tendency to compare soprano saxophonists to Lacy when inhabiting the same musical territory, even when they sound very little like the elder statesman. The inclusion of baritone does separate Ideal Bread a bit, but only superficially, as Lacy used baritone players like Charles Davis and Charles Tyler in his bands (and even Jimmy Giuffre reportedly worked the low horn alongside Lacy at one point). Lacy’s compositions are also tremendously orchestrated and often have a more pronounced bottom end than might at first be apparent. Sinton states in the liners how Ideal Bread intend to do for Lacy what Lacy did for Monk’s music in the early ‘60s; namely, work with the tunes to show the possibilities that lay beyond their basic structures. Here, they’re using tunes mostly from the mid- to late-70s as springboards, including cuts from Trickles (Black Saint, 1976) and the underrated NY Capers & Quirks (Hat Hut, 1981). The earliest piece here is “Esteem,” first recorded in 1972 on The Gap (America), which its composer dedicated to Johnny Hodges. Whereas the original was a poem of piercing tones, Ideal Bread moves the piece into an elegiac melody of orchestral weight – massive in unison yet microcosmic from bar to bar. Radding takes the first solo spot into a mini-concerto, his arco thick and trailed by throaty whispers of horsehairs and Fujiwara’s mallets. Sinton’s baritone is smoke and slippery cadences, building into growls and slurs but harping on delicacy of digits. Likewise, Knuffke’s stately pathos tells one more about “Esteem” in a few held half-valves than most trumpeters could in a lifetime. Sinton and Knuffke make an interesting front-line pair, hard-charging baritone panning sound while the trumpeter’s self-assured assimilation of the postbop language into free playing is extraordinarily fresh and gimmick-free.
“Bud’s Brother” was written for Richie Powell, like all of Lacy’s tunes having a curious dedicatee whose connection to the theme might seem spurious. After all, one of the most raucous lines on The Gap, “La Motte Piquet,” was appended with the composer’s statement that “Sonny Clark always liked this sort of tune.” Uh huh. The head of “Bud’s Brother” is a deft trip of ascending and descending flicks, singsong and blur. Sinton takes the first solo, worrying thematic fragments and toying with them like a dog shaking a stuffed toy as Radding and Fujiwara skip the tempo like stones. Soon, a baritone pyramid is built and the trio is far from anything Lacy could’ve imagined. Knuffke is steely cry, working threads over a massive ensemble drone until he and Fujiwara take the reins as a duo, brassy particulates assembled in clear lines atop a blur of gong-and-tom motion. The only unfortunate thing about The Ideal Bread is the fact that it is a limited edition CDR release, and will probably be long gone by the time the jazz world catches up. It’s a shame because not only is the playing extraordinary, but the germinating ideas and the conviction with which the group approaches them is something that a lot of people in this music could learn from.”