The seven compositions on trumpeter Chris Pasin‘s new album Random Acts of Kindness collectively hit a sweet spot between structure and improvisation, melody and atmospherics. Instead of sticking strictly to the traditional jazz form of verses and solos over repeated chord progressions, Pasin and his band take inspiration from eastern music, traditional western tunesmithing, and free-form jazz – one playful patchwork of theme and variations is even called “OCDC” after Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry – to craft an original sound that pushes intellectual and emotional buttons alike.
In “Liftline Moguls,” for example, a stark odd-time unison theme winds through subsequent, otherwise amorphous variations, while on the impressionistic ballad “Kayte Sunrise,” which features sweet muted-trumpet work from Pasin, a free-floating feel is superimposed onto a more standard form.
The musicians rehearsed for two months before putting these compositions out before live audiences and in to the recording studio, and it shows: This is no pickup band. Pasin together with guitarist Mark Kleinhaut, keyboardist Wayne Hawkins, bassist John Menegon and drummer Dave Berger have created a carefully colored, expertly played set of tracks to which the common jazz term “tunes” doesn’t do justice.
Even so, one of the primary charms of these compositions is their tunefulness, from the exquisite melody of “Fragile Creatures” to the playful complexity of the lines from “Liftline Moguls” and “Smiling Eyes.”
On the latter, Pasin shows off superb melodic inventiveness. Hawkins, Kleinhaut, and Menegon turn in solos full of winks and nods, Berger’s semi-solo during the resolution is a thing of joy, and the rhythm section displays fine chops on the album’s most straight-ahead beat. Likewise, the energetic jazz waltz “Nature of the Beast” features spectacular drum work and an impressively flowing bass solo. To close the album, the meditative, drone-driven “Om Flux” explodes into a rocking middle section with another bass solo.
The album works equally well as pure pleasure listening and as brain food. Not random at all, these Random Acts of Kindness range widely and impress and delight on many levels.