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Music Review: Jeremy Udden – Plainville

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With his second album, saxophonist Jeremy Udden sets his sights back home to Southern Massachusetts and the town that provides the album’s title. With nine brand new songs, Plainville is a hospitable and elegant piece of work.

Udden covers the bases with his rich, bold sax playing. Brandon Seabrook chips in with banjo and guitars, giving the record a rustic quality, while Pete Rende’s pump organ, Fender Rhodes, and pedal steel lines Udden’s compositions with hard edges. Rounding out the crew, RJ Miller’s dependable drums and Eivind Opsvik’s exploratory bass lines bond together for a succinct rhythm section.

Plainville picks up right where Udden’s debut, Torchsongs, left off. The songs sprang out of his experience touring for six years with the Grammy-nominated Either/Orchestra. Working his way through the Northeast United States, Asia, Africa, and Scandinavia, Udden began to reflect on what it meant to be home. While constantly touring, he moved his personal home base from Boston to Brooklyn.

In many ways, Plainville feels just like settling down after a series of moves. It’s like digging back in to an old easy-chair, sitting in front of the fireplace for an evening indoors after a long day.

It's fair to say that this is an intimate jazz record with folk leanings. The opening title track introduces us to his intent as a leader, offering up a gentle wave of sax while Seabrook’s banjo lays out some highlighting ostinatos. Rende’s pump organ tenderly moves through the backdrop, adding choral fill.

At times, Rende’s usage of the pump organ almost enters drone music terrain. He provides a solid thrust of resonance behind the rest of the players, filling the gaps with an unassuming approach until vaulting to the forefront with an unanticipated phrase or two.

The straight-up rock of “Curbs” gives Seabrook a change to show off his chops. His work is invigorating, riding a cruising Opsvik bass line cheerfully.

“Christmas Song” features the acoustic guitar riffs of Nathan Blehar, while Mike Baggetta fills in with open electric guitar on the album’s closing cut.

Plainville is a magnificent letter home. Udden’s group plays with soul and alternates smoothly between moments of orchestral grandeur and calm sophistication. With a truly cohesive ensemble playing with heart, this recording should solidify Jeremy Udden as a qualified, intelligent composer, leader and saxophonist.

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